Praying for My Enemies

Praying for My Enemies

 

 This Lent I’ve committed myself to several spiritual practices.  The first is to write 40 reflections before Easter. Having come through a 6-month dry spell, the challenge of composing that many spiritual reflections is daunting.

But I have found the other discipline to be even more demanding: praying daily for national leaders and political advisors whom I hate.

Hate is such a strong word, isn’t it? And yes, I am guilty of harshly judging these people I do not personally know.

But their spoken and written words I find to be so self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, divisive, snarky, and at times, flat out untrue.  I’ve allowed these men and women to become the enemies of what I believe; destroyers of what I understand as just and right. There are days after reading the news when I’m certain my blood is boiling.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus doesn’t mess around, does he?

I preached on this text last month.  In preparation, I learned that to be perfect, or “telos” in the Greek, isn’t so much about moral perfection as it is about “reaching one’s intended outcome.

We are to become whom God designed us to be which ultimately is a reflection of the Divine. Just as God is compassionate, forgiving, generous, and loving, we are called to be likewise. Apostle Paul describes it this way to the Ephesians in chapter 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God“.

Whether I like it or not, as a Christian I am NOT called to be a hater.

And whether I like it or not, God loves those national leaders and political advisors, just as much as God loves me.

And so…I pray.

I pray that peace will fill their hearts and Divine wisdom be ever-present in their minds.

Even more so, I pray for myself—because I have clearly not reached my intended outcome.  Looking back at some of my reflections from last summer, it is evident I continue to struggle with judgment and hate. (sigh..)

So join me, won’t you, in praying this Lent?
Pray for the ones you love AND those whom you hate.
Pray for your own soul that the Holy Spirit might reveal even more how to be a dearly beloved Child of God.

 

 

Please follow and like us:
43

Here and Now

Here and Now

Spring peeks through red-tinged tree tops.170304_111836_COLLAGE-1

She inches her way onto the scene, unfolding in delicate hues of green.  In the purple of the crocus and the vibrant yellow of the daffodil, I am reminded of the inevitable.

Winter is coming to a close.

A few more snow storms may descend upon the northern lands and temperatures may remain low for a while, but Spring, and all of her bird songs and blossoms is waiting just behind the curtain, eager for her time front and center.

And know this.

I have hated her subtle entrance for years.  I cannot tell you how many crocuses I have cursed; how many tender, young leaves I have despised. In truth I am a Winter creature who grieves in Spring the  arrival of Summer and the dreaded heat that accompanies it.

In the last few months, I have been practicing mindfulness, striving to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now. And so it happened.  On a walk with my dogs, a cluster of purple crocuses engaged me in true delight!  Yes, in that mindful moment the beautiful Spring bulb that gives most people hope that winter will soon end, graced me with joy.

The Apostle Paul, in the close of his letter to the Philippians, gives thanks to God for their “renewed concern” for him.  “I am not saying this because I am in need,” he tells them, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Paul learned in his ministry how to be content in the here and now.  He understood that in putting one’s trust in God he could make it through anything.   As we move further into Lent, a time of personal reflection, may we continue to draw on that same promise.

Remain with me here.  And now.  With our eyes on God, hearts rooted in Christ, and souls nourished by the Holy Spirit.

Please follow and like us:
43

Lenten Hallelujah

Lenten Hallelujah

My daughter’s high school choir performed Wednesday evening.

ash wednesday

Mother and daughter, Ash Wednesday 2016

As I sat there listening to the youth sing, wishing she and I were at our church’s Ash Wednesday service instead, a single choral word jumped out at me: hallelujah.

The shock of it all!  Did anyone else catch that?

Didn’t they know that word is not to be uttered now that Lent is upon us.  Did they not know that this is the season of penitence and self-examination, of rending our hearts, tearing out those things that keep us from our authentic Divine selves?

This is not a time of rejoicing, people.  There are to be no hallelujahs until the arrival and celebration of Easter!

But I should know better.

What I have learned as a hospice chaplain is that so much of life is both/and.  I have witnessed people both weep and laugh as their loved one shows yet another sign that death is pending.  I have held the space for dying individuals celebrating their accomplishments while being weighed down by regrets. As an adult child or spouse grieves their beloved’s death, I’ve also seen glimpses of joy that the heavy burden of caregiving is now gone.

Life, my friends, is Both/And.  It is both weeping and laughing.  Celebrating and regretting. Grieving and rejoicing.

So perhaps, just perhaps, if a high school choir should sing out on Ash Wednesday, “hallelujah,” I, the devout Christian intent on repentance and spiritual discipline for 40 days, should praise God as well, for “Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.” Ecclessiastes 12:6-7 (The Message)

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust. Hallelujah!  Praise be to God!

Please follow and like us:
43

Love Always Wins.

Love Always Wins.

Image result for lent imagesAnd just like that, Lent is here.

I have been pondering this liturgical season for several weeks.  How much did I care to or desire to delve into it?  What would I give up? What kind of spiritual practice could I take on?

I love that Pope Francis in the past has encouraged the harder things to be sacrificed.  Forget chocolate, and swearing, and smoking, the Pope takes it to a higher level asking that we give up things like indifference.  Why? Because Lent is not only a time to spiritually prepare for all that Easter represents and promises, but to move deeper into becoming the people God has created us to be.  A 40-day surrender of something is great. It allows us to consider the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made.  But that’s not the endgame.  We are called to remove it from our lives forever.

I recently came upon these words written by Dax, my friend and transgender, desert sage :

Some things I am learning:

Anger, fear and hate is finite, limited and diminishing.

Love is not.

Anger, fear and hate occur when we are idle.

Love occurs with action.

The energy expended for fear/hate is the largest taxation of the soul.

The energy expended for love is replenished again and again.

It is a constant flow that does not waiver.

Love has the best exchange rate ever dealing in realities of infinite

while hate languishes and grapples and clings and begs as it dies.

Love always wins.

Always.

Always.

Always.

Unusual  words to welcome Lent, but they are befitting.  In these tumultuous times, we cannot afford to just refrain from our vices for a mere 40 days.  What is required is spiritual transformations.   These days demand we dare to peer into our own darkness, to get at the roots of our being, and rip out that which is a “taxation of the soul.”

But do we dare?  Are we even capable?

This Lent, quiet your mind and examine your heart.  Allow the Divine to reveal that which is preventing you from being all that God has created you to be.  Is it indifference, hate, fear, or judgment?  Is it prejudice, resentment, or anger?

This Lent, be replenished by Love and render your heart free of all that is a taxation of the soul.

Cling to the promise that love always wins.

Always.

Please follow and like us:
43

Tending the Soul’s Garden

Tending the Soul’s Garden
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Isaiah 58:11

I keep it no secret that although I enjoy gardening, I am no master gardener.  In fact, any plants that go into my back yard are mostly on their own once they go into the dirt. I occasionally water.  I don’t fertilize. I rarely prune & groom. And…my garden looks about like you would expect!

And here’s the deal.  Our faith is very similar. You get what you put into it!

Image result for small flower garden

Nope. This image is definitely NOT from my garden! 🙂 Photo copied from Pinterest.

If we only occasionally attend worship, and especially when we expect or even demand to be entertained or inspired, then chances are we are anticipating a bountiful crop from an untended vine.  What I’ve noticed for myself, too, is that when I walk away disappointed with a particular worship service, I have had to admit that I have been leaning on Sunday mornings to be my only spiritual nourishment.

It’s just not enough.

Experiencing the Holy, noticing Divine synchronicity, feeling spiritually grounded happens when we actively tend to our faith.

This means in addition to attending worship that we commit to a daily spiritual practice like intentional prayer time (not just praying on the fly, which has it’s own value but doesn’t enable a deeper time with the Holy).  We read a devotional each day that offers words of wisdom that may find their way into the day in unexpected ways.  We listen to religious or spiritual music as a wonderful way to nourish the soul and reflect on our faith.  As I’ve written before in the past, even seeking a Holy message in secular music can be satisfying, if not a surprising way to tend to ourselves. And equally important, we spend time with other spiritual sojourners (in a prayer and share group or Bible Study). Often God speaks to us through their witnessing, their prayers, their understanding of scripture. As we receive encouragement and support in our own walk and can, in return, provide the same to others on their own spiritual journey. We grow together!

So…How’s that tending the soul going in your life?  Is your spiritual garden in need of some TLC…some weeding or watering or fertilizing?

What I continue to learn in my work as a hospice chaplain and in my own life, is that when our faith is tended to, when time is being spent in prayer, and study, and fellowship, there is a resiliency, a core strength that grows, enabling us to endure the hardest of times and delight in the best of times.

And with that I say, “Let’s get going!”

Put on those gardening gloves, get into your spiritual garden, and start tending to it.

You will be grateful you did!

 

Please follow and like us:
43