Just For Today 1 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceJust For Today – Part One

Introduction

We’ve spoken a lot lately about walking the Christian path, and doing our very best to uphold those virtues and behaviors that would exemplify Christ in our lives. There are several things that can help us on our journey. Something I’ve found to have a great impact in my life are the Five Reiki Principles. Though Reiki is not tied specifically to Christianity, I find the two to be extremely compatible and complementary. Each of the five principles has a strong correlation in Scripture. Each helps us to live a more peaceful, thankful, abundant life – one day at a time, or, “Just For Today.”.

So, starting today, for five Sundays, I’ll be addressing one principle each week. The first Reiki Principle is – Just For Today, I Will Let Go Of Anger.

Spiritual Quote

“Whenever anger comes up, take out a mirror and look at yourself.
When you are angry, you are not very beautiful.”
THICH NHAT HANH, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

What is Anger?

Anger, in and of itself, is an emotional response to an event or situation. Let me say that again…anger is an emotional response; it’s not a state of being. People often say, “He (or she) made me so angry.” Let me ask you a question. Can I “make” you love me? No, of course not. Neither can I “make” you angry. I might say or do something that triggers the emotional response of anger within you, but I can’t actually make you angry. You are simply having an emotional response to an external stimulus. It’s how you choose to respond to the emotion that can be detrimental. Let’s take a little closer look.

A. Anger Defined

Anger is a strong feeling of intense displeasure, hostility, or indignation that results from a real or imagined threat, insult, frustration, or injustice toward yourself or others important to you.

B. There are three types of anger:

  1. Rage – Usually manifests in an explosive expression of anger, either physical or verbal.
  2. Resentment – Usually manifests as repressed or suppressed anger.
  3. Indignation – Manifests as righteous anger due to a wrong someone else has suffered or an unjust situation.

C. Causes of Anger

There are many reasons we might become angry. For example: when we lose control of a situation, especially if we don’t get our own way; if we feel rejected, excluded, or mistreated in some way; when we suffer loss, or even fear a loss before it happens; injustice or mistreatment of others; and feeling in some way inadequate if we compare ourselves or our lives to others.

When these situations occur, it’s important for us to gauge the situation and measure our response accordingly. Not all anger is bad – it’s how we react and what we do with it that makes the difference. Remember, even Jesus got angry. John 2:15 (“And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overthrew the tables”) tells us of Jesus’ righteous anger at the Pharisees and Sadducees for turning the temple into a marketplace, thus dishonoring God. Now, I don’t recommend attacking others or destroying property. But, this passage does remind us that it’s natural to get angry – and we all do at some point. Anger in and of itself is not sinful – it’s our response and reaction that can be inappropriate.

For instance – in our attempt to control our anger, do we simply deny it exists? Or, maybe we simply push it down deep inside and suppress it. Neither of these is in our best interest. When we deny or suppress our anger, it festers and simmers. Then, all too often, when we’ve done this long enough, we become a powder keg and we blow up with violent outbursts – usually taking our anger out on innocent people who happen to be around us at that particular moment. Very often this type of response builds over such a long time that it takes a very small thing to push us over the edge, and we react completely inappropriately to the situation. Some people, too, make excuses and blame their anger on having a “short fuse,” and typically react with harsh outbursts, either physical or verbal, to just about everything that sets them off. This is why I think the key to Paul’s statement about anger, not returning evil for evil, etc. is his caution to maintain self-control. It’s also what is meant in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, ““In your anger do not sin.”; meaning don’t let anger become wrath, a violent outburst.

When we lose self-control, we’re usually the ones who end up looking foolish. Scripture reminds us this fact in several places:

  • Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”
  • Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.
  • Proverbs 16:32 “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty…”

Anger and Health

Inappropriate handling of anger can also lead to serious health problems, among them:

  • Disease – when anger subsides, the chemicals released during the event leaves our bodies more easily stressed; stress can trigger or exacerbate a whole host of conditions including diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive issues, stroke, migraines, etc.
  • Sleep Disorders – Anger can wreak havoc with hormones and other chemicals within the body causing difficulty in sleeping; even having difficulty sleeping can cause anger, which creates a vicious cycle.
  • Respiratory Issues – If you are prone to problems such as asthma, anger can make it harder to breath and trigger an attack.

Learning how to control our anger can have a dramatic effect on our overall health.

Letting Go

There are many ways we can learn to let go of anger. Of course, as with everything in our lives, it will be easier when we invite God to be part of the process. In fact, sometimes just taking some time in prayer when we feel anger coming on can go a long way to reducing it. Simply getting quiet with God, and letting the Holy Spirit fill us with a sense of peace and calm can help us to see the situation more clearly, and can guide us to appropriate responses.

There are other things we can do, too:

  • Identify the source of your anger. There may be some unresolved pain from your past that would cause you to react in a certain way when events occur. If this is the case, counseling may help to identify and resolve the issues from the past, making for a brighter, less angry future.
  • Give yourself a time out, and breathe. Make a decision not to react quickly, or give in to knee-jerk reactions. Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself. When possible and appropriate, give the other person the chance to talk – and truly listen. James 1:19 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” When you slow down and truly listen, without thinking about what you’re going to say next, and you take a moment before you respond, you’ll be able to respond in a more appropriate way.
  • Transfer the energy. Go for a walk, exercise, clean out a closet. This is a wonderful way to redirect the anger in a more positive way than lashing out or becoming violent.
  • Wait for the anger to subside before speaking. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred. Our mouths don’t have an “undo.” If you’re familiar with computers, there is a “Control+Z” function that allows you to undo something you typed. Our mouths don’t have a “Control+Z” – we can’t take back or undo hurtful words.

Conclusion

Our world and our lives are full of situations that can make us angry – injustice, bad drivers, betrayal, violence, etc. We will never be able to avoid all the causes of anger. We can, however, make a choice as to how we will respond. I use to always tell my children, “You cannot control the actions or behaviors of others, but you are 100% in control of how you react to them.” Anger is a very powerful emotion. But, when you take the time to invite God into the situation, the Holy Spirit will calm you, bring you peace, and allow for the possibility of forgiveness. And remember, reducing anger also minimizes susceptibility to numerous health issues, and makes us much more pleasant to be around. Who wants to be around someone who’s angry all the time?

You might have heard the phrase before…I can do anything for one day. I learned it in sobriety. I can’t promise I won’t drink tomorrow, but I can promise I won’t drink today. The same holds true for each of the Reiki Principles. So, I invite you to focus on just this one principle, every day, for a week. In the stillness and quietness your prayer and meditation time, focus on this one phrase – Just for today, I will let go of anger. Repeat it over and over several times. Ask God to be with you, ask Jesus to help heal any situations that arise, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with a sense of peace and calm.

Scripture

  •     John 2:15
  •     Ephesians 4:26
  •     Ecclesiastes 7:9
  •     Proverbs 14:29
  •     Proverbs 16:32
  •     James 1:19

 Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

Just For Today 1 – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceJust For Today – Part One

Introduction

We’ve spoken a lot lately about walking the Christian path, and doing our very best to uphold those virtues and behaviors that would exemplify Christ in our lives. There are several things that can help us on our journey. Something I’ve found to have a great impact in my life are the Five Reiki Principles. Though Reiki is not tied specifically to Christianity, I find the two to be extremely compatible and complementary. Each of the five principles has a strong correlation in Scripture. And each helps us to live a more peaceful, thankful,
abundant life. So, starting this Sunday, I’ll be addressing one principle each week. The first Reiki Principle is – Just For Today, I Will Let Go Of Anger.

Spiritual Quote

Whenever anger comes up, take out a mirror and look at yourself.
When you are angry, you are not very beautiful.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Potential Scripture

  • John 2:15
  • Ephesians 4:26
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9
  • Proverbs 14:29
  • Proverbs 16:32
  • James 1:19

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWhat’s Love Got To Do With It? – Introduction

Events this week have caused some intense self-examination. Thinking back to a previous message in which we discussed being a living example of Christ’s love, I reminded myself of the question I posed as a challenge – referring back to Colossians 3:12-15 and asking ourselves, “Am I doing this?” Then, a more disturbing thought occurred to me – “Dang, Alan, I guess you have to practice what you preach…not so easy, is it?” And, with the events of this week, another question popped into my head, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Honestly, the only answer I can come up with is…Everything!

Spiritual Quote

“Man must evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.
The foundation of such a method is Love.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr. / Criminal Minds Episode

Thoughts

The Event

Recently I had been asked to handle the order for imprinted t-shirts and sweatshirts for a local non-profit organization. After doing the research, I found a local company to handle the job. The logo was created and I stopped by the company to discuss the order; things like quantity minimums, compatibility of the artwork, etc.

Everything was fine. The organization met and decided on the quantities and sizes (we were ordering double the company’s minimum quantity), and I completed the order form. I emailed the form and the artwork. The next day I stopped by the company to verify they had received the order, and to pay the deposit. The lady who helped me was extremely pleasant and courteous, and even found a better sweatshirt for the job which she would give us for the same price. She then calculated the total (almost $600.00), I paid the 50% deposit, and I went about my day.

Two hours later I received a voice mail message from the lady at the company saying she was sorry, but when she submitted the order to the production department ‘they’ told her they could not fulfill our order. I returned her call and she restated that ‘they’ would not be able to fulfill the order and that she should not have taken my deposit. I asked what reason had been given since the artwork, the required minimums, etc. were all in compliance with their requirements. She said she didn’t know why, she wasn’t given a reason, she was just told to call and tell me ‘they’ couldn’t do the work. I asked if she would check with ‘them’ and get back to me with a reason as I have other printing jobs to be done and the reason this particular job could not be completed would be important to know for any possible future orders.

She agreed to check, and then offered to mail me my deposit check. I asked her not to bother; I would pick it up on Monday.

I was, to say the least, perplexed. I had worked with the company twice to ensure everything for our order would be in compliance with their requirements. I ran through our interactions in my head. Had I been in any way rude? No. Did I complain when I was told they couldn’t meet our desired delivery time? No. Did I get upset, curse at her, etc. No. Did I give her any static about the deposit? No. Had I done anything that would cause ‘them’ not to want to do business with me? No. In fact, our interactions couldn’t have been more pleasant. Then it hit me.

The only thing that changed between our initial interaction and placing the order was the logo. We added the words “Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.” Now I was more than perplexed – I was stunned. I thought, “Really…in this day and age? They’re refusing to sell to our organization because it supports Lesbians and Gays?” It was the only logical conclusion. There was nothing else about our order that would cause them not to be able to proceed. I hope to find out for sure on Monday.

My Reaction

My first reaction, besides disbelief, was, honestly, a bit of bitterness and anger. My human, emotional, ego-centered self took over – momentarily. Then, of course, all those wonderful little thoughts started tumbling through my head. I could write a letter to the editor. I could stand on a soapbox and tell everyone I know how discrimination had once again reared its ugly head. I could plaster comments all over Facebook. Yeah…that would make me feel better.

But, would it? That’s when I remembered my previous message. You know, the one where we talked about Colossians 3:12-15, and asking ourselves, “Am I Doing This?” Let me remind you of the Scripture…”…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (patience); bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”

Darn it…just when I was working up a real good mad, the Holy Spirit had to touch my heart and basically say, “Hey Alan…guess what…here’s your chance. You spoke a good game a couple of weeks ago…how about living up to your own message.” Ugh! Pesky little Holy Spirit, anyway!

So, I thought about it. Actually, I did more than think…I prayed, and prayed, and meditated. In all honesty, the whole experience made me physically sick. I just wanted Jesus to take away those thoughts, those feelings. And you know what? He did. He helped me to realize that the only person I was hurting was me. My righteous indignation wouldn’t solve the issue, wouldn’t get me the shirts, and certainly wouldn’t change ‘their’ minds or attitudes.

When we are reminded that we are to love, to be kind, to be gentle, to be forgiving – we often say, “It’s not that easy…How do I do it.” This little episode helped me to see. It’s all about prayer. It’s about giving it over to God, and letting go of our own need for vengeance, retribution, and getting even. I found myself searching out Scripture that would help me to focus my prayer-thoughts.

Ephesians 4:26 & 27 says, “…do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” So, I prayed, and I got still, and I let the Holy Spirit flow into and through me until I could feel peace. Finally, I drifted off to sleep. And, when I woke, I felt much more at peace with the whole situation.

I also came across…

  • Luke 6:27 & 28 –  “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”
  • Romans 12:14: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

and

  • 1 Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

So, I started thinking. Perhaps I should prayerfully ask God’s blessing for those folks who would discriminate against us. I consciously ask God to bless them, and ask the Holy Spirit to work upon their hearts. I can even ask Jesus to light their path, so that they may come to know the truth – the truth of the pain their actions cause and, by causing such pain, they are walking away from the path of Christ.

Matthew 10:8 says, “…Freely you have received, freely give.” I thought about this for a while and realized the “freely give” means unconditionally. I must send thoughts of blessing, peace, love, and forgiveness – without condition. Then, God is free to work on healing my heart, and at the same time, He is free to work on those for whom I send the blessings. It removes me from the equation, and lets the Spirit of God take control.

The next one, however, challenged me a bit.

Proverbs 4:23 & 24: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.”

Watching my mouth…being careful not to tear down those who would persecute us. This challenged me because there are still those who need to know these situations exist. And, when they happen, they need to be brought out into the light. But, how do I do that without gossiping and being malicious? This was a challenge, until a dear friend reminded me that a lot depends on intent – are my words and actions in alignment with Christ’s principles? Is it my intent to ‘bash’ them? Is it my intent to cause them harm…to get even…to exact revenge? Or, is it my intent to calmly describe the situation to those who need to know, without any hateful, hurtful language? I realized – yes, I can explain the situation and bring awareness without being hateful or mean-spirited. I made the conscious decision not to name the company here until I find out for sure whether or not the facts are as I perceive them. After validating the reasoning behind the company’s actions, should discrimination prove to be at the root of it all, I can still write a letter to the editor, if I feel so moved, as long as I keep the tone to one of informational purposes, and I express my feelings that I wish ‘them’ no ill will.

Conclusion

In a prior message we talked about being thankful in all situations. At first, this was tough. Then, after sitting in prayer for a little while, it came to me – I’m thankful that this situation has allowed me the opportunity to examine myself, to ask the question, “Am I Doing This?” And, it has allowed me to put my faith and my convictions into practice. And, guess what – I feel better! I feel at peace with the situation. I don’t have to fix it – that’s God’s job. My job is simply to love. As Galatians 4:22 & 23 reminds us, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” To me, that last one is the key…self-control. When I control my thoughts, my words, and my actions, and turn them over to God, the others can’t help but follow – peace, patience, gentleness, joy, love, and yes, forgiveness.

Regardless of the situations we face, we can face them with the love of Jesus in our hearts. It may take a lot of prayer, and lot of meditation, and a lot of studying Scripture until God so moves our heart and our mind that we can live up to the standard. Just like anything else worthwhile, it takes effort. But, the payoff is enormous – less stress, lower blood pressure, less disease, and a true sense of peace. Dr. King was right – the foundation to end all revenge, aggression, and retaliation is Love. What’s Love Got To Do With It?…EVERYTHING!

As I was printing this today, I re-read yesterday’s message from The Daily Word. It ties so perfectly to the message today I came back to add it.

I Open My Heart To Love And My Life To Divine Order

“Though I intend to love others as myself, when I conflict with someone, I might consider him or her an adversary. I could, however, see them differently. I pause and ask myself, How else might I view our relationship? This person may be my teacher in some way. What am I to learn from him or her? I open my mind to a different possibility. I open my heart to acceptance.

As I broaden my perspective, I become a radiant expression of unconditional love. I love even in the presence of conflict. No matter what the other person intended, I intend to see God’s goodness. Through this changed perspective, divine order prevails. I look for the good, for the gift. I love and I live a “divine order” life.”

Scripture

  • Ephesians 4:26 & 27
  • Luke 6:27 & 28
  • Romans 12:14
  • Matthew 10:8
  • Proverbs 4:23 & 24
  • 1 Peter 3:8 & 9
  • Galatians 5:22 & 23
  • Colossians 3:12-15

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

 

What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Introduction

Events this week have caused some intense self-examination. Thinking back to a previous message in which we discussed being a living example of Christ’s love, I reminded myself of the question I posed as a challenge – referring back to Colossians 3:12-15 and asking ourselves, “Am I doing this?” Then, a more disturbing thought occurred to me – “Dang, Alan, I guess you have to practice what you preach…not so easy, is it?” And, with the events of this week, another question popped into my head, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Honestly, the only answer I can come up with is…Everything!

Spiritual Quote

Man must evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is Love.
~Martin Luther King, Jr. / Criminal Minds Episode

Potential Scripture

  • Ephesians 4:26
  • Luke 6:27 & 28
  • Romans 12:14
  • Matthew 10:8
  • Proverbs 4:23 & 24
  • 1 Peter 3:8 & 9
  • Galatians 5:22 & 23
  • Colossians 3:12-15

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

A Mother’s Love – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceA Mother’s Love

Introduction

Today is Mother’s Day. Though we should honor mothers all the time, this is one day a year we’ve set aside to pay special tribute to all mothers. Whether you’re a mom, have a mom, had a mom, know a mom, have been like a mom to someone, or someone was like a mom to you, let me start today by saying, Happy Mother’s Day.

Though for most people Mother’s Day is a time of joy, for others it may not be. Maybe you’re still in grief over losing your mom. Maybe you’ve lost a child. Maybe your mom was less than an ideal model of motherhood. May you’ve wanted children and have been unable to have them.

While we take time to celebrate and honor moms everywhere, we also need to be sensitive and compassionate to those for whom this day may be a bit of a struggle.

To be honest, knowing today may be a struggle for some, I struggled with whether I should even attempt a Mother’s Day message. Then I started to think about the fact that all of us, in one way or another, whether good or bad, have been greatly affected by a mother. Everyone has a mother, has had a mother, has been a mother, or knows a mother. So, regardless of whether we may struggle with the day or not, I invite you to celebrate with me today. Celebrate your own mother, yourself as a mother, or someone who was like a mother to you.

Personally, I’ve been blessed. I had a wonderful mom, a terrific second-mom, and many ‘pseudo-moms.’ This week’s quote reminds me of each and every one of them.

Spiritual Quote

“God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.”
~Saint Augustine

Thoughts

As I reflect on the memories of my mom, and all of the wonderful moms I’ve had and known, I realize more and more just how much a mother’s love is like God’s love. Think about it for just a moment.

From the moment we’re conceived, we bring havoc into our mother’s life. We stretch her body all out of proportion; we take up space and squish her insides all over the place; we cause her to crave things like brussel sprouts, liver and onions, and crackers with peanut butter and pickles; and we cause her to be sick every morning for months on end. Then, finally, the day comes and we arrive. And, what an arrival! We cause mom so much pain she swears like a drunken sailor and she turns into the incredible hulk and bends the bars of the bed-rail. Then boom…we arrive. Mom lies there, head pounding and body aching, with muscles strained and stretched beyond imagination. And what do we do? Scream.

It’s cold, it’s too bright, we’re being poked and prodded, and all we do is scream. What’s the look on Mom’s face? Is it one of anger or resentment? No…far from it. It’s a look of joy, and deep love. From that moment, it’s a love that never ends.

As we grow, are our moms perfect? No. But, then again, neither were we. Still, they loved us. They clothed us, fed us, sheltered us, and taught us. When we didn’t get our way, and we pouted and complained, they loved us. When we were mean, and said things like, “I hate you”…they loved us. When things in our lives didn’t turn out the way we thought, we blamed them. And when life got busy, we forgot them. Still…they loved us. And, no matter how many others placed demands on them, they found ways to make us feel like we were special – like we were the only ones that mattered. Seldom…too seldom…have we said, ‘thank you.’

It’s that way with God, too. We’ve been given a wonderful gift – this life. And yet, we complain and act like spoiled children. When the sun shines, we want rain. When it rains, we want the sun. We fight over our ‘toys’ and ‘our’ territory. We argue over who loves Him more, and who He loves the most. We curse God when we slam our hand in a door or when some referee makes a bad call – as if it’s all God’s fault. Still, He loves us. We mistreat and pollute this beautiful world He gave us, we mistreat our bodies, we mistreat each other, and we ignore His word. And yet, He loves us. He has filled the world with food, and with materials from which to build, but we blame Him for hunger and for homelessness. Still, He loves us.

Like a mother’s love, no matter how we act, how we complain, how we disobey, or how we ignore, God’s love endures – forever. Just like Mom, God doesn’t love us more if we succeed or less if we fail – the love never ceases. I’ve always told my kids there is nothing they could ever say or do that would cause me not to love them. I may not always agree with, or approve of their decisions, but I will always love them. I know my mom felt that way. And I know that God’s love is just as complete and just as enduring – even more so.

There are many Scriptures that remind us that God’s love is like a mother’s love – deep and unending.

  • When I think of the love I have of my brothers and sisters, I realize mom was the first to love us, and that love grew into a love for each other. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love each other because He loved us first.”
  • “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)
  • “But we were very gentle with you, like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
  • “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15 & 16)
  • “He had always loved those who were His own in the world, and He loved them all the way to the end.” (John 13:1)
  • “Give thanks to the Lord because He is good. His love continues forever.” (Psalm 135:1)

And finally,

  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38 & 39)

Closing Thoughts

Whether from our natural mother, someone who is like a mother to us, someone to whom we are a mother, or someone to whom we are like a mother, the truth remains – a mother’s love is deep and unending. And, it seems the more there are to love, the more love there is to go around. Today, we honor all mothers for all that they have done, and continue to do. In so many ways they remind us of God and all He has done, and continues to do. It’s appropriate to honor moms with our love and appreciation; and it’s appropriate to honor God who created motherhood as a human, living example of His unending, unconditional love.

I’d like to close with this Mother’s Day Blessing from The Daily Word:

“I bless mothers and all who give from their hearts to care for children. Love is essential for a child to thrive and grow, and today we celebrate and honor maternal love. With gratitude in my heart, I bring to mind my own mother or a motherly figure. I give thanks for the one who nurtured and guided me, stood by me through difficulties, shaped me into the person I am today. Connected by a love that transcends time, distance, and circumstance, we are one in the love of God, forever linked and blessed. Mothers of the world, may you be blessed knowing you are loved and appreciated. God is the source from which all love emanates, and you are an expression of God’s love as you tend to those in your care.”

Scripture

  • 1 John 4:19
  • Romans 8:38 & 39
  • Isaiah 66:13
  • Isaiah 49:15-16
  • John 13:1
  • Psalm 136:1

Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

A Mother’s Love – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

A Mother’s Love – Introduction

Sunday is Mother’s Day. Though we should honor our mothers all the time, this is one day a year we set aside to honor all moms. This week’s quote reminded me so much of my own mom. Like God’s love for us, there’s always enough of a Mother’s Love love to go around.

Spiritual Quote

“God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.”
~Saint Augustine

Worship With Us!

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship as we pay special honor to all mothers and the love they so freely share.

Potential Scripture

  • 1 John 4:19
  • Romans 8:38 & 39
  • Isaiah 66:13
  • Isaiah 49:15 & 16
  • John 13:1
  • Psalm 136:1
  • I Kings 3:23-27

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where All Are Welcome!

A Friend in Need – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceA Friend in Need – Just Be There

No man, or woman, is an island. We all need interaction with others. As we travel the journey into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, one of the ways we can live a more Christ-filled life is by paying attention to how we interact with others. After all is said and done, it really comes down to just one word – Love. And, when we have the opportunity, we must share that Love. Indeed, for a friend in need, whether we’ve know him or her a lifetime or just a few moments – just be there.

Spiritual Quote

“Love is a fruit in season at all times,
and within the reach of every hand.
Anyone may gather it and no limit is set.”
~Mother Teresa

Thoughts

We’ve all heard the phrases before – Do unto others, treat others the way you want to be treated, etc. It’s been said by so many, for so long, most people don’t even realize the basis is Scriptural. Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, you do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” It sounds simple enough. But notice there are no qualifiers. Scripture doesn’t say to do unto others when it’s convenient; or when the other person is being kind; or when we are, in some way, getting something out of the deal. It simply says “do” – regardless of all else, “do.”

Some of us will say, “Sure, it sounds good, but it’s not that easy.” Guess what…you’re right. It’s not always easy. It takes work, and diligence, and a true desire. It requires us to change, not just mouth the words, but to develop a change in our hearts, to the very depths of our souls. At first it will take a lot of conscious effort.

But, over time, it will become so automatic that we don’t even have to think about it. It will simply be who we are. And when it does, we can truly say, “Christ is alive in me.”

There are several Scriptures that give guidance on how we should treat one another. Many may sound familiar…

  • Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…
  • 1 John 4:20 & 21 – If anyone says, ” I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him. Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
  • Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (and daughters) of God.
  • 1 Peter 3:8 & 9 – “…having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling…”
  • Galatians 5:22 & 23 – “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

Think about that last one for a moment. What’s the key? Self-control. When someone treats us badly, swears at us, makes obscene gestures, or calls us vile names, how do we respond? Do we respond in kind – returning evil for evil? When we do, we generally find some way to rationalize our own behavior. It reminds me of an old saying, “Don’t tell me not to be angry. I worked hard for it, I’ve earned it, and I deserve it.” However, it is only when we can put aside our own thoughts of “self,” our ego, and exercise self-control that we are able to demonstrate patience, kindness, and gentleness.

Now, lest you think these teachings are limited to the New Testament, let’s take a look at a couple of Scriptures from the Old Testament.

  • Proverbs 19:22 – “What is desirable in a person is kindness…”
  • Zechariah 7:9 & 10 – “…show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.

It doesn’t take huge, grand gestures. Sometimes, it’s just reaching out in small ways. Let me share a story I found on a website called Sermon Central.

“A little lame boy was once hurrying to catch a train. In the press of the crowd he experienced real difficulty in manipulating his crutches, especially as he was carrying a basket full of fruit and candy. As the passengers rushed along, one hit the basket by mistake, knocking oranges, apples, and candy bars in all directions. The man who caused the accident paused only long enough to scold the cripple for getting in his way. Another gentleman, seeing the boy’s distress, went to his aid. Quickly he picked up the fruit and added a silver dollar to the collection, saying, ‘I’m sorry, Sonny! I hope this makes up a little!’ With a smile he was on his way. The young boy who had seldom been the recipient of such kindness called after the ‘good Samaritan’ in gratitude and awe, ‘Mister—please sir, are you Jesus?’ ‘No,’ replied his new-found friend, ‘I’m only one of His followers.’”

This story actually ties back to a previous message – Don’t Tell Me, Show Me. People with whom we interact, even if only momentarily, need to see the Lord alive and at work in our lives in our acts of kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, and compassion.

Colossians 3:12-17 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

If you were counting, this passage cites six actions or behaviors to be aware of to make us a kinder and gentler people. Each ties back in some way to the previous Scriptures I mentioned. But, this verse sums it all up for us. Let’s take a look at each one. And, after today, when the blog is updated, I invite you to refer back to this portion of the message, jot down notes, and refer back to them as you study Scripture; and ask yourself – Am I doing this?

1. Forgiveness

This is perhaps the hardest for most of us to live up to. When we accept Christ into our hearts and lives, our actions and attitudes should be the same as His. Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” That means our mind, our attitude, should be one of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and yes, forgiveness. Adopting a constant attitude of forgiveness is perhaps the greatest way we can demonstrate the change in our lives that occurs, or should occur, when we accept Christ.

2. Love

Paul wraps everything he had said up into one word – Love. Love binds all other virtues into perfect unity. Letting love be the guiding virtue in our lives means love everyone – even our enemies. We must love even those who hate us, call us names, swear at us, etc. Our natural human instinct is to dismiss, write-off, or get even with our enemies. We must learn, however, to fight those urges. However misguided we may think them to be, we must remember they are children of God, too.

3. Peace

In our passage, Paul reminds us to have peace, even in times of adversity. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Remember, in a previous discussion, we talked about what is meant by peace. It’s a deep, inner, spiritual peace that comes from God, and transcends all understanding. It is so deep, and so powerful, it’s what allows us to be kind, even in times of trouble or sorrow.

4. Thankfulness

I know, it’s easy to be thankful when good things happen – that unexpected check shows up in the mail, we finally get that new car we’ve wanted, etc. And, I know it’s much easier to gripe and grumble when things are going “wrong.” So often we fall back to the easy, griping and complaining, and we lose sight of all we have to be thankful for. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Remember last week when we talked about changing our perspective? Let’s take a look at how our perspective can change a something seemingly negative into something to be thankful for. This list is also on Sermon Central. I thought I’d use it today because it makes the point so clearly…

I am Thankful for………

  • ….the taxes I pay ….because it means I’m employed.
  • ….the clothes that fit a little too snug ….because it means I have enough to eat.
  • ….my shadow who watches me work ….because it means I am out in the sunshine.
  • ….a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and ….gutters that need fixing ….because it means I have a home.
  • ….the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot ….because it means I am capable of walking.
  • ….my huge heating bill ….because it means I am warm.
  • ….all the complaining I hear about our government ….because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • ….the lady behind me in church who sings off key. ….because it means that I can hear.
  • ….the piles of laundry and ironing ….because it means my loved ones are nearby.
  • ….the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours ….because it means that I’m alive.
  • ….weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day ….because it means I have been productive.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to see this in action. When I had a small healing ministry in California, I rented space from my chiropractor. A young woman, a new chiropractor just starting out, also rented space from him. At one point, she made the mistake of complaining about having to pay him rent, and how she’d be happy when she didn’t have to pay rent so that she’d have more for herself. Doc’s response? ‘Guess what, you don’t have to pay rent anymore.’ That was her last month in his office. I had the opportunity to look at it differently. I paid Doc a percentage of what I took in. I was thankful when I had to write him a bigger check because it meant my ministry was successful. The more I had to pay him, the more I was making.

A more recent event for me was having some expensive work done on my car. Admittedly, at first I grumbled about the cost. Then, while preparing for today, I realized it’s a matter of perception. I’m thankful that I had the ability to have the work done because it means I have safe and reliable transportation.

We can be thankful for our life by living our lives fully. We can be thankful for our abilities and talents by using them to help others. We can be thankful for our happiness by doing what we can to make others happy. And, we can be thankful for God’s inspiration in our lives by living to be an inspiration to others.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it will always be easy. Sometimes it will take a lot of prayer and meditation. I’ve spoken before about losing my granddaughter. I certainly wasn’t, and am not, thankful that Chevelle passed away. With time, and through prayer, I can say I’m thankful that God gave me the strength to be a comfort to my daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Jon, in their time of deep, horrendous grief. And I’m thankful for the strength and ability to work with the mortuary to make all the arrangements when Jennifer and Jon could not.

Sometimes finding things to be thankful for comes through a change in perception and perspective. Sometimes, it comes from a shift in focus.

5. God’s Will

Our passage says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” This goes back to Don’t Tell Me, Show Me, too. So many times we read Scripture, we listen to messages and sermons, and we simply fail to put what we know into action. Why? Because it challenges us to change. God’s Word challenges us to be better – kinder, gentler, more compassionate, more forgiving, more loving. When we resist that change, when we let our own sense of self, or ego, get the best of us, we end up reading Scripture, attending church, and even nodding in agreement with the message; only to then walk out the door and forget everything we’ve read and heard. This makes our faith merely theoretical. For the Word of Christ to live in and through us, we must be willing to face the challenge of change. We must not simply ‘know,’ we must ‘do.’

6. Witness

Finally, whatever we do, in word or deed, we are to do in in the name of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” It is not the words we say. We are a witness of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, alive and living through us, by our actions. To use a common phrase – it’s how we show up.

Closing Thoughts

Paul summed everything up into one word – Love. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endur4es all things.” And, as Mother Teresa said, love is a fruit that is always in season and is available to everyone – we can all gather it anytime and without limit.

I started off today by saying no man, or woman, is an island. It’s true. We all need to interact with others. It’s how we interact that can make such a difference; to ourselves, and to others. I’d like to close by sharing two things. The first is a passage from The Daily Word; the second, a story about “just being there.”

The Daily Word passage for May 3rd is titled, “Many are blessed by a single act of kindness.”

“When I observe someone being kind to another person, there are three simultaneous benefits. The person receiving the kindness feels cared for and valued. The person expressing the kindness feels the joy of giving, and of having a positive impact on another’s life. But there is a third beneficiary of this encounter – me! When I observe an act of kindness, love and hope spring up in me. As I watch the interaction between the giver and receiver, I, too, am blessed. With this in mind, I choose to uplift others. I demonstrate kindness, consideration, compassion, and patience – gifts from the heart – knowing the effects ripple out to bless unseen others.”

The story I’m going to share was shared on Facebook by my niece, Megan, a Marine. I have no idea who wrote it, but it’s incredibly moving.

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused.

Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her, “Who was that man?” he asked.

The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered.

“No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed. I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey.

His Son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this Gentleman’s Name?”

The nurse with tears in her eyes answered, “Mr. William Grey………”

The next time someone needs you … just be there.

Whenever you have the opportunity to be a friend to someone in need, even if it’s an “enemy” – just be there. And remember Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not lose heart in doing good.”

Scripture

  • Colossians 3:12-17
  • Ephesians 4:32
  • 1 John 4:20-21
  • Zechariah 7:9-10
  • Matthew 7:12
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7
  • Proverbs 19:22
  • Galatians 6:9
  • 1 Peter 3:8
  • Philippians 2:5
  • Philippians 4:7
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31

References: SermonCentral.com

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If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

A Friend in Need – Quote

FadedDove

A Friend in Need – Introduction

No man (or woman) is an island. We all need human interaction. Simple acts of friendship are the greatest demonstrations of love. In every interaction there is the potential of meeting A Friend in Need.

Spiritual Quote

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand.
Anyone may gather it and no limit is set.
~Mother Teresa

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

Potential Scripture

  • Col 3:12-17
  • Ephesians 4:321
  • John 4:20-21
  • Zechariah 7:9-10
  • Matthew 7:12
  • Gal 5:22-23
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7
  • Proverbs 19:22
  • Galatians 6:9a
  • 1 Peter 3:8
  • Philippians 2:5
  • Philippians 4:7
  • 1 Thessolonians 5:18
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Stuff Happens – Teaching

Stuff Happens – A Matter of Perspective

Life can be wonderful and beautiful. And, at times, it can be dark, fearful, and painful. Things happen in life. A milder form of a more colloquial phrase is ‘stuff happens’. Sometimes, how we face such events is, to some extent, a matter of perspective.

Spiritual Quote

“Some people complain because God put thorns on roses,
while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.”
~Unknown

Today, I’d like to explore our perspective on life, and our perspective of God’s role when ‘stuff happens’.

Thoughts

I started thinking about this topic quite a bit over the last couple of weeks. I’ve spoken with so many people, and read so many blogs and articles, all with one common theme – life is full of tragedies. Whether it’s events seemingly removed from most of us, like the bombings in Boston and Texas or school shootings; or events that hit more close to home like financial troubles, health issues, death, and divorce – at times life just seems dark, painful, and full of despair. When these events occur, it’s so easy to get down and depressed. What we’re really searching for, though, is an answer – why? Why are these things happening to me? Why are people so cruel, so hateful, so evil? Why was my loved one taken from me? This list goes on. And, for those of us who have faith, we often ask, “Is God testing me?” and “Is this really God’s will?”

Does God Test Us?

When tragedies strike, our minds want to make sense of them. In an episode of Criminal Minds, one of the characters tells a little story about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

Two pastors were giving their perspectives. The first said: God was punishing America for its immorality. New Orleans was a wicked city like Sodom and Gomorrah. The second said: The hurricane was proof of God’s love because the levies didn’t break until the storm was over. If they had broken sooner, thousands would have died.

That first view is very common. When searching for the “why” it’s easy to “blame” in order to try and make sense out of tragedy. The second view, while not answering the “why,” portrays God as loving and caring rather than mean and hateful. It’s a matter of perspective – a choice in how we choose to view God. Unfortunately, it’s the first view that many will hold onto in order to make sense of tragedy.

Think about it. Say you read an article about a man who is severely injured in a car accident. The article states the man was driving drunk. Our mind says, “okay, that makes sense…the accident was a result of his actions.” Or, you read about a woman who passed away in her nineties. Our mind says, “that makes sense…she had a wonderfully long life.” Our human minds want the world to be fair, and to make sense.

The truth is, life isn’t always fair, and it doesn’t always make sense. Young men walking into a school with semi-automatic weapons and killing innocent people doesn’t make sense. Jobs being outsourced to other countries, leaving the unemployed frightened and stripped of their financial security can hardly be called fair. Killing and maiming a mother and her two children whose only ‘crime’ was to attend a marathon and cheer their husband and father across the finish line neither makes sense nor can be called fair.

Well meaning, but very misguided folks will often try to comfort people suffering from a tragedy with phrases like, “It was God’s will.” I heard the same types of things when my granddaughter, Chevelle, passed away the day she was born. I heard them again when my mom died of pneumonia just six days after my step-father passed away; and yet again when my dad died of Alzheimer’s. Now, I know those folks meant well. But they truly had no clue. I don’t believe for one moment that it was God’s will that Chevelle be taken before she even had the opportunity to live; to cause such deep and lasting pain to my daughter, her husband, and her oldest son.

I don’t believe that God ‘needed’ Chevelle, or my mom, or my dad in heaven. And, I certainly don’t believe my job was outsource because I was somehow being punished, or because God decided, “Gee, I think I’ll take away Alan’s job, his career, and his financial security and see how he responds.”

To believe God capable of such a will would be to believe in a manipulative, mean, vindictive, and malicious God. So, if not “the will of God,” the question remains…why?

All pastors research ideas, ways of stating things, and to find insights and perspectives other than our own that we can learn from. When we come across appropriate material, we usually reword it into our own thoughts and manner of speaking. Sometimes, we’ll quote directly. Rarely do we quote an entire message. I’m no exception. I enjoy researching, reading others thoughts and ideas. And, when I find useful information, I reword it to make it “my own.” There are times, however, when direct quotes are appropriate. When I use material directly, I always give credit and provide the source. While preparing for today, pouring through Scripture and researching other people’s perspectives, I came across a beautifully done message by Pastor Howard Boles of Roberts Park United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. When I post today’s message on our blog, I’ll also include a link to his message. I’m quoting his entire message today, something I rarely, if ever, do. But, his message is so well presented, and says exactly what’s been running through my mind, I felt it best to present it just the way he did.

“William Sloan Coffin was one of the finest preachers of the late 20th century. He served as the youngest chaplain at Yale University and was later called to be the pastor of the well-known Riverside Church in New York City. His sermons continue to serve as an inspiration. One of his most famous sermons was delivered ten days after the death of his son Alex. Coffin chose to preach that Sunday.

He had something he needed to say. He spoke about his son Alex and how he had been driving home during a storm. He lost control of his car, which plummeted into a river. Alex drowned.

Members of the church responded immediately with heartfelt cards and letters. They surrounded the family with love and comfort. In the sermon about Alex’s death, Coffin noted that a few days after the tragic death, he was at his sister’s home and a kind woman brought several quiches to feed the family. But as she brought the quiches into the kitchen the woman shook her head and said, “I just don’t understand the will of God.” As a grieving father and a pastor, Coffin did not let her statement go unchallenged. He replied, “No, you don’t.”

Coffin was hurt that this woman had equated his son’s untimely death with the will of God, that somehow this was part of some master plan by God. In the sermon Coffin says, “God doesn’t go through the world with his finger on the triggers, his fist around knives, his hands on steering wheels.” God did not allow or desire this untimely death. And to say that it was the will of God is really no consolation to those who live on. Coffin would later add, “My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all hearts to break.”

I am going to answer the main question posed by the sermon here at the outset. I do not believe that God sends tragedies and difficulties in life to test us. They are not done to make us stronger. I do believe that no matter what circumstances we face, if we learn and grow from them we can become stronger. But even as I say that, I know many people who have encountered challenges in life that did not make them stronger. They were not able to overcome these challenges, and became broken and bitter people.

Considering the circumstances that befell William Sloan Coffin, if we say that God caused this to test Coffin and those around him, we come to believe that God is rather uncreative and even mean-spirited if the only way of strengthening their faith was to cause the death of a young man. In circumstances where such events caused people to falter in their life and become broken individuals, we might be led to conclude that God picked the wrong way of testing this person if the ultimate result was so far from the intention. At so many different levels, the idea that God tests us and allows tragedies to happen as a means of making us better is rife with poor theology.

And yet we are a people who want to understand the “why” of any situation. Why did this happen? We long for understanding. We want the world to make sense. And so when a tragedy strikes, we look for an explanation. This is very normal.

Let’s consider the gospel story about the blind man who is brought to Jesus [John 9:1 & 2]. Do you remember the question that was posed of him? Those who brought the man asked Jesus, “Who sinned that this man was born blind?” This is because at the time of Jesus, the assumption was that illness and tragedy were the result of some misdeed. The illness and tragedy were the punishment from the unseen hand of God. Even when they couldn’t determine what the sin might have been, the understanding was that such bad things happened for a reason.

One of the problems with this was that it victimized the one who suffered twice. They suffered the illness or tragedy along with the blame for the occurrence. But before we distance ourselves too quickly from such thinking, we must recognize that same tendency in our society today. It never ceases to amaze me when prominent religious leaders capitalize upon a national tragedy to say that it is God’s punishment for the sins of the land.

From Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell, hurricanes and earthquakes and even the tragic events of September 11th have been described as God’s punishment for the sins of individuals or groups. And with some frequency, many of the same voices have described AIDS as a punishment from God concerning homosexuality. Such poor theology falls well short of an image of a loving God. Such a God is an angry, vindictive deity who lashes out in ways that hurt innocent people.

Jesus recognized the deficiency of this theology. When asked who sinned that a man had been born blind, Jesus knew that such thinking would not hold up to the scrutiny of logic. If he said that the man had sinned, then one would correctly ask how he could have sinned before he was born resulting in the blindness. If he said that the man hadn’t yet sinned, but God knew that he was going to, this would create a very mean-spirited image of God and one that called into question the whole notion of free will. And if Jesus said that the man himself had not sinned, but perhaps it was his parents or someone around him, again, God appears to be malicious, lashing out at an innocent man to punish someone else.

Jesus never answered the question. He didn’t answer because the question itself was the problem. No one sinned that this man had been born blind. Not the man, not his family, not anyone around him. There was no logical way to equate the blindness with the sins of anyone.

And that leaves us with the unfortunate place of having to say that sometimes we just don’t understand why things happen the way they do. As much as we might like to have an answer that says that x happened because of y, life doesn’t always follow that kind of equation.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we are without hope. While life may not provide simple answers as to why things happen, there is something we can say with assurance. It is illustrated in the story about a man, lying on his deathbed and reflecting on his life.

As his life was coming to its conclusion, there by his bedside was his wife of seventy years. The husband turned to his wife and said, “I remember when we were just starting out and I got fired from my job; you were there by my side. And then when the house burned to the ground, you were right there by my side. And then there was the car accident. When I woke up in the hospital, you were the first person I saw. You were right there by my side.” The husband, lying now on his deathbed, said to his wife, “Do you know what I think?” His wife, her heart filled with warmth and love replied, “What?” And her husband said, “I’m beginning to think that you are bad luck.”

What I like about that joke is not just its irony, but its underlying message. The man’s logic is obviously wrong. His wife is not bad luck and she did not cause any of the bad things to happen. But what he can say, without a doubt, is that his wife was there by his side through it all. And that, I believe is good theology.

God does not test us. God does not cause tragedies to befall us.  I don’t understand why bad things happen, but I believe without a doubt, that no matter what comes to us in life, we are never alone.  I believe with all my heart, that even in the worst of times, God is right there with us. As William Sloan Coffin indicated, God’s was the first heart to break when his son died in the icy waters. This is illustrated over and over again in the scriptures. Even when we turn away from God, God is faithful and always there with us. No matter what we face, we are never alone.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is the opening of Psalm 139. I read this often when visiting in the hospital or nursing home. The psalmist asks the question, “Where can I go to flee from your presence?” That is to say, if I wanted to get away from God, where could I go? The psalmist begins to think of possibilities. If I scale the highest mountains and make my bed in the skies, God is there. If I descend to the deepest depths of the earth, God is there.

If I flee to the farthest stretches of the sea, even there God is present.  The psalmist has considered the highest, the lowest, the farthest options, and in each place, the result is the same. God is there. God has always been there. No matter where we go, God is there with us.

That is what makes this such a compelling verse in times of need. When you find yourself alone in your time of loss or grief, the psalm reminds us that God is there with you. When we feel abandoned or cut off from the people around us, God is always right there.

We cannot answer the “why’s” of life. But we can find some comfort in the assurance that no matter what is going on in our life, God is there with us. God is there as a source of comfort and hope.

The other thing we can say is that we have one another. Part of the community of faith is the promise that we will stand together, no matter what may come. We can be sure that there is someone there to share our sorrows and our joys.

In one of his books, Parker Palmer talks openly and honestly about his struggles with depression. It was a dark time in his life. He describes it as walking in a fog. He didn’t know where to turn or how to escape.  He was stuck. Of course there were many who did not understand what he was going through. They offered the words of encouragement to try to help. But there was one friend who would come by every day.  Sometimes the friend would talk; oftentimes the friend said nothing.  But he would come and offer to rub his feet. It was a long journey, but the friend was there faithfully and remained with him until he found his way through this difficult time.

That is the assurance that we have as a community of faith. We are called to be there with one another, whatever the circumstances. We do not have to explain why something has happened.

We don’t have to solve the dilemma. We are simply called to be present with one another. And when we do that, it will be enough.

It reminds me of the story of the young boy who was late coming home from school. His parents began to worry. They went in search for the boy. Finally, they found him a few blocks from the house, heading home. His parents were relieved.  But they also wanted some answers. “Why were you so late?” they asked him. The boy explained that his friend’s bike had broken and he stopped to help him.

His parents were curious, saying “But you don’t know how to fix a bicycle!” The boy agreed but said, “I know, but I stopped and helped him cry.” We don’t have to have any magic words. We only have to be there with and for one another. And when we do that, it will be enough.

Does God test us? Simply put, no. God does not test us. Sometimes, life can by trying and testing. There is no easy answer for why such things happen. But through it all, while God is not the agent of cause, I do believe that God is always there with us as a source of comfort and hope.”

Closing Thoughts

Life is full of both thorns and roses. It’s a matter of perspective, and our choice, how we respond. Do we fall into despair over the thorns? Do we play the blame game? Or, do we accept the thorns as part of life, understanding we may never know the “why,” and make the choice to focus on, and celebrate, the roses – a hug from a friend at the right moment; offering nothing more profound than an ear; the gentle touch of a loving partner.

When the thorns of life grow up around us, we can also turn to Scripture. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. But He is always there to help us make our way through the thorns, and to see the roses.

Psalm 9: 9&10 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

And John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

When others turn to us in times of need, our first inclination is that we should be able to help, to fix the problem – or, at the very least, to answer “why.” This is especially true for those of us in the clergy. We tend to feel like we should have all the answers, be able to fix all the problems, and be able to say “why.” The truth is, we don’t have all the answers, we can’t fix all the problems, and we most certainly can’t answer “why.” To pretend we can is hubris. Simplistic platitudes like “it’s God’s will” offer no comfort, and can even push people further away from God. As Mr. Boles said, we don’t have to have all the answers, and we don’t have to solve the problems. We are simply called to be present with one another.

Scripture

  • Psalm 9:9 & 10
  • Psalm 139
  • John 9:1 & 2
  • John 14:27
  • John 16:33
  • Reference: http://www.robertsparkumc.org/worship/sermons/does-god-test-us-52911

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