blessed are the sick

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:1-12

What’s that you say?  Blessed are the sick is not one of the Beatitudes.  Are you sure?  Hmmm, maybe I’m just feeling especially needy today and wanting another blessing.  My body has been plagued with this year’s influenza “du jour” for the past ten days and I am, well for lack of better words, sick of it.  The bug has visited every part of my body and is now considering follow-up visits.  I won’t have it.  Enough is enough.

A friend, not known for encouragement nor social tact, commented that this is God’s way of using me in another person’s spiritual walk.  Really?  Obviously, God and I need to have a talk.  I can visit the sick, I can write encouragement, I can hold another’s hand in solace, I can cook a dinner, I can run errands, I can mail a cute ‘get well’ card.  But, I don’t see the benefit of puking for God.

“Son, you have so much to learn from me.”

“Lord?”

“Who else talks to you in your hour of need?”

Nowhere in Matthew 5: 1-12 does it say, “Blessed are the hale and hearty, the fit and healthy.”  Each of the Beatitudes bestows a blessing on the weak and needy because it is there in that weakness, need, and abject powerlessness, that our Father can meet us and use us to further his work in our kingdoms.  When I become absolutely incapable of controlling my body and my affairs is the time when Jesus can nominate another of his followers to step in and become a dispenser for his tender mercies.

That is one the most difficult parts of recovery.  We have learned to love with patience and compassion, but allowing ourselves to be loved with patience and compassion is a challenge.  Allowing our weakness and sickness to be a tool in another’s faith walk is not part of the ego’s game plan.

The great mystics speak of the need to give up the gaze upon the heavens for guidance and direction, but rather to descend into the masses of suffering and despair to discover the essence of a Savior.  Religion often tells us to look up.  Jesus teaches us to redirect our attentions downward where humanity suffers because that’s where He exists.

UNSHACKLED 2

 

a common quandary

One of my blogging buddies, MIKE, recently shared a post to which all of us can relate.  We try to be sincere, try to share our experiences and insights, then hope that someone out there in the blogosphere will exclaim, “Me, too!  That’s my story, too.”

It seems that this blogging undertaking is a numbers game for some of our fellow writers.  Whatever the reason, whether it be recognition or monetizing, the MO works this way.  I’ll throw a like on your post and follow your site  with hopes that you will do the same.  Increases my numbers on the WP stats page.  Most likely I did not even read your post which I liked nor do I  intend to read any more of your blog which I am following.

So let’s not give too much credibility to “likes” and “follows”.  WP seems to have rectified the trolling situation that was rampant during the beginning of this year.  Daily I was being followed by sites with comments that were totally irrelevant to my writing material.  Some were legitimate business concerns just trying to advertise, but most were ploys to have me redirect to their sites.  The spam button is easy to find.  It’s on your dashboard under comments.  I also find it comforting to delete those nefarious “pretender” followers.  It’s easy.  Under the dashboard, click on people, then followers, then delete whatever doesn’t look kosher.  Trust me, you will not miss that follower on your site.

But, back to Mike and his great blog site.  It’s the sincerity of purpose and tortuous self-searching that pops off his pages.  I have told him this before, but it bears repeating.  “Mike, you don’t preach at me, you teach.”

He came back at me saying, “All I want to do is come aside you and walk your path with you.”

Our world needs a lot more of that.  Guys like Mike and many more of my blogging friends who just want to walk my path with me for a while and share a life.

 

 

 

Mexico City

BBC NEWS

In the capital, city officials prepared food and shelter as well as medical services to those arriving at the Jesus Martinez “Palillo” stadium.

‘There are pregnant women, many children, vulnerable people and we have to guarantee the space and the services they require,’  said city leader Jose Ramon Amieva Galvez.

Many of those arriving were so exhausted they only grabbed a blanket before falling asleep.  ‘From what I brought from Honduras I have nothing.  Even yesterday I walked barefoot,’ Kenia Alvarado, 21, told El Universal newspaper.

Residents of Mexico City have donated clothes and shoes for the travelers, local media reported.”

REUTERS

At a campaign rally in Montana, US President Trump praised  troops installing razor wire along the US-Mexico border to stop an approaching migrant caravan, saying “barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”  Matthew 25:42-44

Shame upon us!  The wealthiest nation in the Western Hemisphere sends troops and  lays barbed wire.  One of the poorest nations feeds, clothes and gives shelter.  How dare the United States call itself Christian?

 

Jonah’s Whale

jonah

 

Jonah, historically, was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BCE.  His name is given to the Book of Jonah representing the  Judaic teaching of teshuva, the ability to repent and be forgiven by God.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.”  Jesus left them and went away.  Matthew 16: 1-4

There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Briefly, the Biblical story of Jonah tells about a man of faith who was instructed by his God to journey to the city of Nineveh to warn the residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath.  Jonah instead flees in the opposite direction and gains passage on a ship to Tarshish.  The voyage encounters tumultuous seas threatening ship and crew with destruction.  Jonah, realizing he is the cause of this raging storm at sea, orders the crew to throw him overboard.  He is swallowed by a whale, survives inside the whale’s belly for three days, is then vomited ashore.  Jonah completes God’s mission, the people of Nineveh repent, the disobedient man of faith is forgiven.

I enjoy reading this story about Jonah.  It is a rich example of the Judaic society of that time drawing upon the writings of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans expressing a faith system in greater powers than themselves.  It is a fascinating mythology.  But, in contrast to the neighboring cultures, the Hebrews developed a monotheism worshipping one God to whom they attributed power greater than any of the other gods of the time.

Our powerlessness is acutely apparent when we are in the “belly of the beast”.  Those times when I know what is right and sustaining, but choose instead to follow what is convenient and comfortable are days in the belly of the beast.  The times when I know what the Lord of my life commands, but follow instead what pleases my ego are even more days in the belly of the beast.  I relate to Jonah when what I choose to do is in opposition to what God desires for me.  The seven deadly sins (character defects) of greed, anger, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride will in a heartbeat put me in the belly of the beast.

It’s a place I can’t fix, control, explain, or understand.  Sooner or later, life is going to lead us there, you and I.  Graciously, that’s where transformation most easily happens—because only there are we in the hands of God—and not self-managing.  It’s transformation that leads recovering addicts out of the beast of addiction.  Like Jonah, that whale vomits us back up onto the shores of sanity and submission.  I am rebellious by nature, slow to learn lessons, and have spent many days and nights suffering in the belly of my personal giant beasts.

Thankfully, the Hebrews taught me about teshuva.  The story of Jonah affirms the teaching of their wisdom.  Repentance and forgiveness, repentance and forgiveness – the cycle continues into eternity.

BEGGAR & WANDERER

Is my faith walk measured by correctness and certainty? Or is it filled with intense need and desire?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5: 5

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5: 6

None of the above verses from the wisdom of the ancient writings say anything about getting it right or being sure about my thoughts concerning God.  As a matter of fact they point to the need to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to hunger for righteousness. I do not have the answers to the mysteries nor will I ever in this lifetime, but there is a way to search for those answers and that searching is in itself the purpose of faith.

Knowing that I just don’t know is sometimes difficult.  It is not an inherent human trait to admit that the object of my searching is an undefinable, indescribable, unspeakable mystery which is the driving force in this earthly life.  Many men and women have taken a stab at descriptions and definitions, but in the end they fall short of certainty.

But, we do know what a God-driven life produces in our lives.  It is love.  Not the warm, fuzzy feelings associated with a friend, family member or spouse, but the gut-wrenching compassion for victims of violence, for the hungry and needy, for the financially stressed, for asylum seekers.   A God-driven life produces peace makers rather than war-mongers, stewards of the earth rather than exploiters, givers rather than takers.

We can know this as truth because the Spirit (conscience) within says this is right and this is love.

“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze and then return what we have received.  We simply complete the divine circuit, ‘love returning love’ as my father St. Francis put it.  This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life.” Richard Rohr

Can’t get any simpler than that.  Look at God’s gaze (the Spirit within – love) and then return it to God and every other creature on earth.  I am a spiritual beggar and wanderer filled with an intense need and desire.  This is all I need to know.35

just a mustard seed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

breathe in, breathe out
focus on the flame
it’s the flame of life

 

as I bring the coolness of the air in through my nostrils to the top of my throat,  I marvel at the freshness of this breath before allowing  it to rest upon my lungs for a moment.   then I exhale the warmness of my expended air back through the mouth.  one breath is spent and the next follows.  this is life

 

My focus is on this flame.  As I exhale through my mouth, the flame flutters.  I have altered the movement of a flame with my breath.  So it is with the flame of life.  One breath, one thought, one action alters the stream of eternity.  I have done this.

Faith as small as a mustard seed can remove the mountain of despair, of anger, of fear, of doubt, of addiction just as that one breath moved the course of the flame of life.  Just a tiny mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  I can do this.  You also can do this.

Faith in the indwelling Spirit, in the inherent goodness of mankind, in the bountiful mercy of God can extinguish our fires of hatred and fear and doubt.  It can alter our eternity.  Let’s do it.

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘ Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

CANDLE

 

 

Today – Pittsburgh

 

LOVE

What is love?  Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling that is felt when in the presence of special friends, family, a spouse?  Maybe.  But, what if love is not an emotion?  What if love is an action shared with the world encompassing all of creation including humanity and the earth itself?  Compassion, tolerance, understanding, non-violence, stewardship – perhaps this is the love that will save our earth and its inhabitants.  Perhaps this the love which the author of 1 Corinthians was setting before us as a challenge?  Let’s try it.

Today, the day after the horrific mass shooting in Pittsburgh in which eleven of my brothers and sisters were murdered, it is extremely difficult to practice what I know the Lord of my life wants me to do – love.  Today, I am rebellious.  No, I will not love those who hate enough to kill.  No, I will not forgive those who hate enough to be unforgivable.  No, I won’t.

Then Jesus says, “But, you must because that is the beginning of healing.”

So, I will experience what humans experience.  I will allow the anger, the disappointment, the horror, the disgust, the sorrow, and the denial.  I will allow this and move on to the necessary work of forgiving.  And trust me, this is work.  It is soul work which is not inherent in our human condition.  I too want to lash out at those who are hateful.  I want to beat them to the ground and scream, “What is wrong with you?”

But  that would be giving them the victory.  That would be denying the instructions of the One who lords my life.  I would become an instrument of hate rather than love.

“God make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”