Wednesday, July 11, 2018

how do you perceive others?


would you be caught by others helping someone such as this...or do you walk away, embarrassed to be seen doing so? "For whatsoever you do for others, you do for Me!" ~Jesus


I have a song going through me head lately, a line says, "love your curves and all your edges, love your perfect imperfections..."
It is so beautiful and it made me think of those who are, to me, perfect. In fact, how can they be imperfect if, to me, I see nothing but beauty?

Something to think about indeed! In today's society, where people diet themselves sick because they see nothing but fat, where women feel tied to a make-up bag and mirror, where "selfies" rule social media, God forbid if we have any blemishes! Let's hide those flaws we think make us unworthy to be around other people, right?

When I was in school, I always sought out those who were by themselves. It didn't take long for me to wonder why they weren't liked by others, as to me, they were perfect! Caring, supportive and more, we had fun and shared many happy times.

So what exactly is the definition of "perfect?" Is it those clothes, that car you drive? How about working your life away just to have that "something" that makes you seem better than others in the eyes of all whom you may meet?

When I first met my husband, he had nothing. An old beater of a pickup truck, no job due to the economy, but was trying every day to find one, few possessions but a heart as big as anything! I fell in love almost immediately. He had nothing to impress me with materially and that was OK by me! I had met so many others who arrogantly showed off their possessions. What they lacked was a sincere joy in just being who they were. To hold up anything else as a measure of your worth only lasts as long as that job, that car, the huge house or bank account will allow.

 As Scripture says, "rust and moth" will soon take over, rendering that prize useless. You can't take "it" with you, whatever that "it" may be. But your character? Now there is a treasure that you should maintain. That is your ticket to heaven. As the saying goes, "it does not matter how big your house was, what car you drove, what job you had or the size of your bank account. What mattered is who you were to a child (or to anyone, actually!)

The rest of that song says, "all of me, I give my all to you..." MY all...everything I have is yours, the good and the bad. Will you love another unconditionally, as the song says? How do you perceive others?

a reminder for today




"Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me."
A prayer from St. Patrick



How wonderful it would be if we all lived this prayer! The news is so full of sadness and sorrow, it is almost as if it is an agenda to keep that pot stirred up. Instead of stories of hope and inspiration, we are filled with every form of vile. Then we wonder why the sadness in the world continues.
Today, be the one who shows compassion towards another. Be the reason someone smiles today. Reach out and offer kindness to those who need that step up. You never know, but you may have entertained angels unaware!

Friday, June 15, 2018

when have you felt lost in the wilderness of your life?







Years ago, when I drove a semi across the country, I remember when I came to the desert states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Desert: Plain, lifeless. Nothing to see for miles around.

The next few times I drove through there, I took another look. Mountains! Cactus! The most awesome pink sunrise in Albuquerque! It literally turned everything pink! It made me rethink the desert in a good way. Although I much prefer my home state of Minnesota with its many lakes, rivers, trees and wildlife, the desert gave me much to think about.

In the New Testament, there are also references to the desert. Jesus, it is written, would go to the "wilderness" to pray. In the region He lived in, it was semi-arid. Dry, desert like. Not a whole lot to inspire anyone, right? But think about it again: dry, desert-like. Actually it is the perfect place to find God! Because we all go through those desert-like times in our lives, times when we too, feel dried up, wasted, lifeless. It is then that we cry out for God, that cry in the wilderness of our lives, when we feel so alone and vulnerable. And like the "Footprints" poem, it is then that God carries us.

The desert is quiet. There are few, if any, distractions. Again, the perfect place to hear God's Voice if we but listen! Listen! Sometimes we tend to drown out the Voice of God by our constant fears. God may be speaking to US, but because we may have our own ideas of how our answer should be, we miss Him entirely. Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert. He took His followers there. He taught them the Lord's Prayer there. Many wonderful things happened in that desert, a place we tend to think of as lifeless.

When I feel the need to hear God, I tend to gravitate to the forest, the trees there shelter me, the coolness of the air stimulates me. The many animals that inhabit it inspire me. I am not a desert person, and yet here I live on the edge of the prairie! A prairie is vast, huge! There is a joke that says out here you can watch your dog run away for two weeks before you finally lose sight of it. Yet there have been times when I have watched clouds billow up into a thunderstorm, the might and majesty overwhelmingly awesome. I have seen tiny seeds grow into mighty fields of corn,life-giving food. I used to think, when I was young, that if I ran to the edge of a wheat field, I could catch the sun before it sank into a puddle at the end of it. Such child-like wonder, right? But then again, God calls us all to be like little children. Little children feel awe at something so grand. To them, anything is an adventure, yet they also need to feel secure when life overwhelms them. This brings us back to that desert experience. Deserts are beautiful. They are grand, they can seem endless. yet is there in that emptiness that we can reach out to God--and He will reach down the rest of the way.

Have no fear, God is with you always...even until the end of time.
Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2018

when you feel like giving up--don't!




When I get sick and tired, and I mean really feeling that way, what do I do? I always turn to the Lord and ask Him to help me get my attitude right. Right? Wrong. Sometimes but not always. Sometimes I stew. I go over and over in my mind what I'm sick and tired about. Guess what, never fails to make me feel sicker and tired-er. (Is tired-er a word?). Then I read some scripture about rejoicing in the Lord always and in everything give thanks. And I think yeah but not right now. Or some happy Christian comes along and starts spilling joy all over me, and instead of rejoicing with them I stay on the complain train. Okay so I get it if you're feeling sick and tired, and maybe you've got good reason to be. But here's the deal. God wants to grace us moment by moment so we can overcome what gets us down. So, the thing to do, really, is to turn to Him, humble ourselves and ask for help. He always graces those who do. Bible says so. Healing for the sick and renewal for the tired. Amen. 

Suicide has claimed two known celebrities in the last three days: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. From the outside, they 'had it all', thus the term, "celebrity." However, it would seem that despair took over what seemed to be an idyllic life, rendering it extinct long before it should have ended.

The news headlines today screamed how suicide has skyrocketed in the last twenty years. Why has the rate gone up? Could it be that in our world of having everything at our fingertips just isn't good enough? We have instant gratification through social media, through news on the spot whenever we want it, we have gadgets that create less work, thus giving us, in theory, more time at our bidding. Yet it seems it is those very things that have isolated us.
I pray one day soon mental illness will no longer have a stigma attached to it and that those struggling will get the help they so desperately need and deserve! You are loved. You are valued, you are important, you matter, there is always hope!!

We need to understand that the devil is the Deceiver. He wants others to feel so deep in despair that taking their lives is the only answer for them. He revels in the fact that he has taken yet one more soul from God. But we also have Jesus! We have Someone who has told us, "take my yoke upon you, for my burden is light." When you feel as if you are in the midst of darkness--and who of us hasn't at one time or other, this reverend included--call out to God. I mean, cry out to Him. You really are not alone.



 · 
A new CDC report shows an alarming rise in the number of suicides in the U.S. If you or someone you know is in distress, help is always available. You can text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 741741, or call 800-273-8255. Help is available 24 hours a day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

like a rock


words hurled in anger or hate have the ability to create the largest boulder...insurmountable

A rock. Picture the biggest mountain or the smallest pebble. Rocks are known as being mighty and strong, yet can also crumble under pressure given time and circumstance. Jesus referred to Simon as "Peter," which means "Rock." "And upon this Rock I shall build my Church." 

Then there are stones. Stones can hurt you. A stone cast in judgment can kill you- such as the woman caught in adultery in the Bible. Or Stephen, the first martyr of the church. Yet how many of us cast stones every single day--and many of us aren't even aware that we do?

Just today, the ABC show, "Roseanne" was cancelled because she threw a mighty large stone at someone  through social media. It was hurtful. It was racist. It was wrong. We are all adults, not five years old. That means we should know better, but how many of us stop and think, stop and ask ourselves, "is this kind? Will it hurt someone's feelings?" More important, what we need to ask ourselves is this: "in what light will others see ME when I say this?"

It doesn't really matter how "popular" you are, to inflict hurt on another is wrong. To cast stones is wrong. To pass judgment is wrong. This is not to say that if the actions of another are truly wrong, that we can sit back and watch what happens, far from it. Even Jesus, when He noticed how the Temple in Jerusalem was being used as something more of a gambling den than a place of worship, called out those who were misusing it. The difference between that and what we are witnessing daily in the news and social medias is that Jesus called out the actions of those who were involved, not commenting on their character. Big difference.

Today I was pointing out something on the computer and my sweet husband made a quick and hurtful comment. Basically I had got in his way of something he was already viewing. But what he said hurt and I pointed it out (nicely--because two wrongs wouldn't make it right if I did it any other way.) He immediately apologized. It was over and done. Love means that when we feel hurt, we go to the one who hurt us and make things right. Not by slinging more angry words, but by showing love and hopefully, compassion and kindness will take the place of pain and hurt.
Today more so than ever, we need to check our 'filters'. Think before you speak. Think even before you think a thought that is spiteful, hurtful or mean-spirited. Thoughts do become things. The more you think horrible thoughts the more the intent will then be to utter those words that, once uttered, are real hard to take back. The tongue, such a small muscle, but it has so much power. Let's all learn to use it in positive ways!



Sunday, May 20, 2018

how do you respond on social media?



‘For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ (Luke 19:10)


I am becoming increasingly saddened at how society is reverting back to "caveman" like tolerance. It seems as if hate-filled words and actions are so dominate today. The comments made in social media are less thought out and more "shoot from the hip"--no filter. People hide behind a persona and then, let 'er rip. This attitude does nothing to foster love at all. The memes we see online, the "fae news" made to incite others, how can we foster a sense of love amidst all of the hoopla?

A recent poll has suggested that religion is falling out of favor with people. I wonder why. Going back to the time of Jesus' ministry, the Pharisees were much like modern religious leaders today- haughty, proud, always pointing out "what Scripture says," but unwilling to bend and realize that what was lacking in their thought processes was Love. Same with today. It seems as if "do as I say, but not as I do" has taken over much of what is called "religion." Gone is the spirituality and common sense that should dictate how we live out our lives.

When Jesus ministered to others, it was with stories they could relate to. It was with examples they could identify with. He showed them time after time that
we cannot sit in judgment of others but rather, forgive others with an attitude of Love. Stone that adulterous woman? "I think not," was His attitude. Forgive and set free. How many of us react in this way today? Instead, there are many who condemn without knowing all the facts. They see things and people as being either black or white instead of in shades of grey. It doesn't matter what the point was, we tend to listen with our ear on what OUR next response will be without having open dialogue of others' feelings. It is always easier to cast that stone, that firm thought of wanting to be right. The problem with that is.....we are so busy being "right" that we tune out the message. For all we know, we may be wrong but hard-pressed to admit it, so we yell even louder, just to be heard. The division widens until we have created a chasm so deep, no one can overcome it.


The same way He is looking at you and me and everyone else in the world, full of love and compassion, longing to bring us home, in the arms of our loving Father in heaven. People so often run away from the One who loves them more than they could ever dare to imagine and who can help them in all their troubles.




Case in point: I speak out a lot about domestic abuse. A chance to be heard came up online and I presented a case worth listening to. Suddenly a cacophony of other voices chimed in and soon, the thread of my point became lost in the opinions of others, which soon turned into hateful words aimed at religion, at race, and of society in general. I felt a sense of loss because as I became more disgusted with how the original post was heading, I am sure that others who needed to hear the original message also became so disillusioned that they tuned out the topic entirely.

Nothing was solved.

Others literally "bullied" the topic with their version of "I'm right and you're NOT!" thus proving the reasons why domestic abuse is so rampant to begin with.

 It broke my heart.


‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)


Today, turn OFF those words of despair and hate. Speak words that reflect positivity instead. Instead of listening to all day news narratives, turn off the noise and reflect on the joyful reasons that you can inspire others. Instead of making comments that may hurt others, use compassion to inspire others with words and deeds. Develop a personal filter that allows you to stop and think, "is this hurtful to another if I were to say it or write it?" Yes? Then don't. Let the thought pass.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

Thursday, April 26, 2018

reflections...

The Head of Christ, also called the Sallman Head, is a 1940 portrait painting of Jesus of Nazareth by American artist Warner Sallman. (canary courtesy of Dawn Gebhard!)

Yesterday as I was getting ready for the day, I stood at the top of the stairs and glanced up. There, in the picture of the "Head of Christ," I saw myself. I stood there maybe a bit longer than necessary and gazed at it in awe--not so much at ME, but at how I was reflected in a watery likeness along with that of Jesus. I thought then of how that is the way we ALL should be! Jesus came to set the example of what His expectations of us are. He instructed us to "love one another, even as I have loved you!" He proved that by showing that love to women, thought of at that time as nothing more than mere chattel. He showed us  how to love Samaritans, the poor, tax collectors, adulteresses and more. How can this be so hard, He encouraged? "Love all as your Father loves you!"




A question came up on my Facebook post from a friend, about why Jesus is portrayed as being Caucasian when in fact, he was from the Mid-east. I responded that back when Renaissance art was being made, Europeans did not travel much, if at all. They drew only what they knew. Most were illiterate, so they tried to portray images and likeness from what they thought they should be. Thus, we have Jesus as a white European with long brown hair. As The Andy Williams' song goes, however, some see Him lily white, some see Him brown, and so on. Jesus came for us all, if you wish to see Him in a way that you can understand, why wouldn't you?

The most important way that we ALL should see him, though, is as a Person of Love. And then, we need to become a reflection of that Love to all whom we encounter. No matter the color, the creed, the gender, the religion, whether that person votes a certain way, in the end, we all have 206 bones, we all bleed red. That is what we need to remember! Underneath the cover of skin, we all have hearts that beat in time to a cadence set upon us by God Himself! It is no different at all than what Cain should have felt towards his brother, Abel. No different than what Jacob should have felt towards his brother Esau, or ten brothers should have felt towards their own brother, Joseph! You see, the rage does go back to the beginning of time...but ...did it have to? Who is going to be the one to change history?
I will.
Will you?

Friday, April 13, 2018

ahhh...the storms in life...



The calendar says mid-April, yet much of the upper Midwest is still feeling the chill of February. Snow dominates our forecasts, the robins are looking confused and farmers are questioning if they will ever make it in the fields to plant.
The Bible tells us there is a time for everything...to plant, to sow, to reap....and we blindly trust those words--why? Because deep in our hearts, we know it to be true.

As I sit and wait for my husband to arrive back from near 90 degree temperatures of California, I ponder in thought at the irony that he is leaving summer to return to "winter." And he is driving through a powerful winter-like storm to do so. I have placed all my trust in God that he will arrive safe, even as high winds have toppled power poles ahead of him and ice covers the roads. I trust in the One whose Mighty Hand stilled the waters during Jesus' day, when His followers awoke in a boat that was being tossed in a raging sea. I call out to Him to keep all those who are traveling to be safe. And, just as we await the arrival of Spring, I too trust that soon, this too shall pass.






Those storms of our lives, be they inclement weather, or a change of jobs, the death of one we love, they can really suck the life out of us. They can make us tremble in fear...or we can stand firm in knowledge that when we cry out, God listens! Place all your cares in Him, for He cares for you! (1 Peter 5:7). Or, as the above picture says so well, "hang on, friend, you are in for the ride of your life!"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

in memory of Billy Graham...


"he heard the word, got the call, took the message to us all, said his message so we'd all understand..."


The world mourns the passing of Billy Graham this week. A man, called by God to deliver His message in the most simple yet profound way possible. A man who lay no claim to a "religion" but a spiritual awakening. This same situation is no different than when St Francis of Assisi received the call from God to "go, rebuild My Church, which as you can see, has fallen into disrepair." At the time, Francis thought that God was referring to the church at Portiuncula and began, in his feeble way of replacing stones. But then the larger message sunk in and Francis then went into the world to call lost souls back to God. This was hard for him as he was basically a shy introvert. Note his introspective time spent with the birds around him!






We are also called to lead souls to God. One person remarked of how the world may never see another Billy Graham and that is true. The world may never see another "Billy." But how about Sally? James? Matthew? Tom? Diane? Yes, I received "that call" many years ago and since then, since I have stepped away from the "rules and regulations" that have kept me bound and realized that it is people we are to serve, not a certain pastor, not a certain way of a particular religion that I must adhere to, but to go back to what Jesus' initial calling was all about. I have felt more free, more inclined to want to spread that Love all around me.






A few nights ago, I watched the movie, "Terms of Endearment." Lots of tears at movie's end; as those of you who have watched it know, the main focus of the film passes away due to cancer. This was made back in 1983 when cancer was still that big, bad boogeyman in the room, unlike today when the chances of surviving it are much better. At movie's end, I pondered my own life and asked myself (and maybe God, too) if I have done "enough" for others. After 20 minutes of no real "response," I let it go and fell asleep. Last night, I again asked God, "have I done enough while I am here?' I then heard His reply: "you're still here, aren't you? No, you have not done enough! There are still more out there who need you!"

Powerful words!

I have not done enough and never will I "do enough." This revelation is not meant to be a slap in the face of my self esteem, but rather, a push of motivation to keep going, keep pushing forward. Billy did not "do enough," though in his way he did a lot more than I ever will! But when it was his time to leave us, I am sure the words that the Apostle Paul heard also were heard by him: "well done, my good and faithful servant!"

My friends, look around you. See how the world is still in pain, still in need of love, kindness, compassion and empathy? That is where you and I need to go, to be the "somebody" for another. God knows when we will be finished, though the work may never be done.

To hear those words at the end of our journey: "well done, my good and faithful servant!"...wow! Such a rewarding pat on the back that will be, to see the smile on Jesus' face....it brings me to my knees in gratitude!

May God be with you today and always!

Friday, February 9, 2018

would YOU answer His call?






I was having a conversation a few days ago with a friend and the subject of "religion" came up. While I admitted that yes, I am Catholic, I also added that just because I say that does not mean that I feel that being Catholic puts me on a higher pedestal than anyone else. I know the Catholic Church has suffered a huge black eye over the past decades...ok, probably hundreds of years, am I right? I know that if Jesus were here right now, he would take to task what the popes over time have done with His original mission; that is, to bring souls closer to God. Instead of simplistic teaching, the Church, as well as all of the other churches that followed, have created a series of "rules and regulations" that have nothing to do with the original message of Jesus: namely, bringing others closer to His Father. Instead it has driven a wedge between people across the globe, it has drawn a line in the sand that has nothing to do with why Jesus came here in the first place! It has brought nothing but pain and sorrow, which began at the time of His Passion and death.









Consider: when Jesus first began His ministry, His call was to "Come, follow Me!" "Follow Me!" It's meaning was as He said it, "give up all that you have and...follow Me!" Give up material goods, yes, give up that extra coat, that extra portion of food to someone who needs it, give up greed, give up the idea that you are somehow "better than" someone else and follow what He does! See how HE lived! When asked, "how do I get to heaven?" His response was to follow the Ten Commandments. Then, He simplified even that by saying, "Love God as you love yourself, and love your neighbor as much as you love God!" So easy...and so hard! Loving yourself...we see that all the time in the news, am I right? Such vanity! Greed...power and control that national leaders have for themselves and over their people. But loving yourself actually means that we see ourselves as being children of God, we don't wish ill of ourselves...and so, we should not wish ill on others, either. Whatever creed, color, nationality, gender...we must love all equally, no strings attached! Then by doing so, you will have that peace you crave for...love will spread over the land!





Jesus followed up his parables by performing His miracles, by showing us through example of how we are to love one another: in His day, it was "Jew vs Samaritan"... He showed how to love them all equally, even "giving up your very life if you have to for them! Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend!" He taught how the humble shall be exalted while the exalted will be humbled. He showed again by example that we must all be like little children, saying the meek shall inherit the earth and more.






Looking about today's sad, sorry world, I see nothing but greed, vanity and hate, yes, but I also see acts of love. What we need to do is to focus more on creating more acts of love. It is a fact that love wins out over hate. It is NOT about how I am Catholic...I am NO better than any of you! It is not about how much we can splinter religion until it is nothing like what Jesus foresaw while He was on Earth. Rather, it IS all about spirituality-getting closer to God by treating others with kindness and compassion. I can quote all the Scripture I want to, but if I am not DOING what I say, how is that being like Jesus? It is all about simplicity-seeing to it that others have what they need, even if it's at my own expense. It is about how we can BE Jesus for each other. I am sure that with each malicious act performed here on Earth, God is slapping Himself upside His head, thinking, "is this what it as all come to, then? Was my dying on the Cross all in vain?" Lent is just a few days away. Let us prove by word and deed that it was not!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

those seven little words






It is said that the seven words that Jesus uttered while on the Cross should also be the seven words we need to utter each and every day: "Into Your Hands I commend My Spirit." 

Into YOUR Hands, Lord...Your Hands that have touched so many, healed so many, Your Hands that held so many lives within its folds. Your Hands that reached out to offer food, solace and strength. And...Your Hands that raised the dead back to life. Yet how many people stop to realize this?

There are many today who face addictions of all sorts: food, drugs, drink, sex, porn....the list is endless. They see no way out of their quagmire and thus, feeling despair, continue their sordid lives. Perhaps what they need to do...what they must do...is to offer themselves up to the One who can pull them from the muck and mire. Sadly today, so many other things have been held out as an answer to the bitter emptiness of life; be it video games, cell phones social media...we all seem to have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the One who can set it aright.

"Into Your Hands I commend  My Spirit."

When we feel up against it, when that wall looks so high and the only way up is UP...we must reach out for that Hand that can raise us up. Depression can consume us at any time but we must realize that we are not alone! We are never alone! Even from the pits of our despair, God sees us, He hears us. He alone can save us...if we let Him!

Today, listen to God's small Voice, the one that says, "come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble and you shall find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

"Into Your Hands, Lord, I commend my Spirit!"