​A moment for walking

person wearing blue denim jacket while walking on foggy road

“Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:8-12

Why were they so amazed? People get up and walk all the time.

Many years ago I was told by someone, “You don’t reward someone for doing what they are supposed to do.”  When I heard this, I was at first taken aback, but then I somewhat bought into the idea. Recently this perspective has been brought to my attention again, and I realize how much my viewpoint has matured.  I now know, there is no love, dignity, honor, or faith, in that statement.

We are not all equally capable of everything.  We are each made up of strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes our weaknesses get the best of us, and we become convinced that that is all we are.  Jesus, in this story of healing, first addressed the inner-weakness in the person brought to him by saying “Your sins are forgiven.”  All the things that make you feel less than worthy, all the things you have done that make you feel ashamed, all the things you are that you are not proud of.  They are gone, now get up and walk.

Letting go of our “sins” is difficult if not impossible on our own.  We often need a formal release from the guilt or punishment we inflict on ourselves or others.   We are not given an explanation of what this man’s sins were.  Jesus does not list them and then check them off.  He incontrovertibly says “the past is the past now go forward.”  What a gift to have such release!

Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Mark 2:3-5 

For a person who is mentally paralyzed by sin, shame, depression or fear, healing is complicated.   The person who needs healing must let down all the preconceived notions of self-sufficiency and allow others to lead them to the place where healing can begin.  This act in weakness is also a moment of considerable strength.  It is a moment of humility for the individual, and yet it takes courage to acknowledge the need for help and to receive it.  Those with the strength to help must treat this person and this moment with love, dignity, honor, and faith.  The barriers of judgment and pride must be removed, and openness to love and healing must take its place.  In this story, Jesus saw not only the faith of the man but also the faith of his companions.   A moment of unity in the desire to encounter Christ produced a perfect reward for everyone.

“they were all amazed and glorified God”

When was the last time you were amazed?

Take a moment today to celebrate the simple acts of others.  It might be more difficult for them than you know.

 

A moment for joy

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This evening, I with many others will begin a weekend retreat.  For those who cannot be there tonight, I want to share the opening discussion.  Some of the words are my own, but much credit must go to the books I have read this year. The most influential books are cited below.

The theme of the weekend:

WHOLEHEARTED JOY

Wholehearted  (whole·heart·ed) adjective–showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment. Synonyms:  devoted, enthusiastic and unshakeable.

What are we devoted to?  What is the condition of our heart?

The Dalai Lama says love, kindness, and affection are the source of joy.

Archbishop Desmund Tutu says we should have a generosity of spirit, be big-hearted, be broadminded, be forgiving, be kind, be magnanimous, be an oasis of peace.

There are difficulties in life that make wholehearted joy sometimes seem distant or unattainable.  Saturday morning at the retreat we will explore some of the things that fill the spaces in our heart and prevent the fulness of love from entering in.  We will release them as best we can over the weekend to allow more room in our hearts for love, kindness, affection, and joy!

Before we begin this process, we need a solid foundation.  So, let’s start with the solid foundation of God’s love.  We were created by love, in love, for love.  God delights in us.  God wants us to be happy and full of joy.  Until we believe this with our whole hearts, we will keep working to be happy thinking that we must control our lives, thinking it is up to us to make things good.

In God’s story of creation, his love story of the beginning of the world, everything is good from the start.  Take a moment here and read the story.   I am sure you have already read it, but I encourage you to reread it.  Read it as poetry and, listen for the love the excitement and the joy as our creator forms the world and us.

Genesis 1 (NRSV)

What do you imagine God was feeling?  Can you see the care he was taking?  And every day he declared His creation good!  On the seventh day, God rested.  God must have thought his work was complete or he would have continued.  But, God had thought of everything, made provisions for it, and so he rested.

Proverbs 8:22-31  Wisdom in creation joins with God in delight!

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

Psalm 104 is a song of praise for God’s creation, and it is full of joy! Can you hear the joy?

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
    O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
    wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
    you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
    you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
    fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it shall never be shaken…

In wisdom you have made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures…

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

 

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5

In his wisdom, God created us in His image, and he delights in us.  All that we are and all that we are becoming.  He is pleased with the process of mankind being and becoming like him, and he has provided everything for it.  He blesses us from the beginning and eagerly waits for us to rest with him in love.
Take a moment this evening to make a list of all the good things that God has blessed you with, in your life.  Include the good attributes he has given you to share with his creation.  Use this list and write your own Psalm of praise to your Creator who created you; by love, in love, and for love.
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Citations:

LAMA, DALAI TUTU ARCHBISHOP DESMOND. BOOK OF JOY. ARROW BOOKS LTD, 2018.

Benner, David G. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality. IVP Books, 2015.

“BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 Versions and 50 Languages., http://www.biblegateway.com/.

A moment of bitterness

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He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart… Mark 3:5

Sometimes our anger is justified. Anger is a necessary emotion. It tells us when something is wrong. It is a warning to look for a problem. Bitterness is never justified. Bitterness often is what happens when we see a problem and instead of addressing it head on we build a fortress around it and protect ourselves from the issue that sparked the anger. The problem is that when we create that strong fortress, we also block out any possibility of healing, forgiveness or love. We sit alone in our fort, the bitterness grows, we add weapons to the walls, and fire at anyone who attempts to enter.

This calls to my mind an excerpt from a book that I read years ago. I laughed and cried when I read it because it hit so close to home.

God is visiting her soul with a terrible rot called madness. First, she is only mad at her husband. Years pass and she is mad at he family. As time goes on she is mad at the Church. Then she is mad at the mailman and mad at the waitress. Practicing, always practicing, perfecting her madness. Mad, all the time mad. Madness.            (Debi Pearl pg. 63)

So what do we do to keep from going mad?

actions for good

pro-verbs

PROVERBS 3

BE LOYAL    Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; v.3

Be good to those you encounter your friends, your family and the people you meet only for a moment.

BE TRUSTING    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. v.5

We cannot rely on our own thoughts to fix our own thoughts. We need a clear perspective.  Seek God’s perspective he has everyone’s best interest at heart.

GIVE HONOR    Honor the Lord with your substance…v.9

Honor begins in the heart. When we hold God in high esteem, we will begin to hold His creation in the same regard.  We will be grateful for what he has shared with us.   And gratitude is always a healer of the spirit.

SEEK WISDOM      My child, do not let these escape from your sight: keep sound wisdom and prudence,…v. 21

We must be careful not to act on our emotion because they are not always in line with the truth. Look to scriptures for guidance and take care to remember what is loving.

FEAR NOT     …for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. v. 26

When we protect our own hearts, it is often out of fear. We build bitterness around our hearts creating walls that cannot be penetrated. When we understand God as the creator and protector of that which he loves we can walk more securely and rest more easily.

BE GOOD     Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. v. 27 

It comes up over and over, when trying to find healing for yourself, do something for others.

PRETEND

When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. (C. S. Lewis pg. 188)

 

Citations:

Pearl, Debi. Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious. No Greater Joy Ministries, 2014.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. HarperCollins, 2001.

All Bible quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version

A moment of doubt

 

but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”  Luke 22:31-34 (NRSV)

There are times when our faith may fail.  What then?   In this scripture, Peter is puffed up and telling Jesus he will not have doubt.  Jesus says “Oh, you will, but when you come back you will be strong enough to strengthen others.”

In John chapter 14 verse 6, “Jesus says I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”   This statement infers a lot, and we often use it as an exclusionary device for who is in and who is out.   This is a statement that causes me a good deal of doubt.  What if Jesus is not THE Way?  What if Christians are wrong?

I am currently reading The Book of JOY.  As I read,  I can’t help but think that the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, in their spiritual life, are in conversation with the same creator and the same God.   This opens a whole can of worms in the small box of faith I am at times most comfortable in.  My thoughts start swimming around, and I start questioning lots of scriptures.  This is good.  When my thoughts begin to settle again, I remember what I really know for sure.  God is Love.  Love with us and in us translates across cultures and religions.

Personally I am a Buddhist, and I consider faith very important.  but at the same time the reality is that out of seven billion people, over one billion people on the planet are nonbelievers.  So we cannot exclude them.  One billion is quite a large number.  They are also our human brothers and sisters.  They also have the right to become happier human beings and to be good members of the human family.   The Dalai Lama

Jesus’ teachings focus a great deal on unity.  We need to be unified with God and each other  This learning is simpler, narrowed down by the claiming of Christ as the only way to God.  Being united in love is much more difficult because we get uncomfortable with our differences.  Jesus, in the Gospels, shows us the way to love each other and the way to love God.  We love by serving and putting others ahead of ourselves.  In following Christ, my faith has a focus and a purpose.   The way to unity is love.  My doubts are transformed when I look outside myself and offer love to someone in need.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8NRSV

Personally, I am a Christian, and when I think about these things, I think of Christ.  What do you think of?