Tuesday, June 29, 2021

 The Ponds by Mary Oliver

Every year

the lilies

are so perfect

I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding

the black,

mid-summer ponds.

Nobody could count all of them --

the muskrats swimming

among the pads and the grasses

can reach out

their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that

rife and wild.

But what in this world

is perfect?

I bend closer and see

how this one is clearly lopsided --

and that one wears an orange blight --

and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away --

and that one is a slumped purse

full of its own

unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life

is to be willing

to be dazzled --

to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even

to float a little

above this difficult world.

I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.

I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --

that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum

of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Someone very wise once wrote:  “I’ve seldom learned anything from pleasure, but I’ve learned loads from pain. The highs made me glow, but the lows made me grow.” 

Another sage said: “Pleasure keeps me going, but pain keeps me growing.” 

Pain is no fun, but it is so often the genesis of our growth as a human.  We must often endure the pain and then look back on it to see our development, especially our spiritual development. 

I can tell you story after story of Christians who found strength in their pain and a feeling of peace they couldn’t explain. The only thing that they were sure of was that God was there in the fire with them. I felt those feelings twenty years ago when I battled cancer.

If you are struggling right now, take comfort in the fact that God knows what you are feeling. Please don't lose faith that he is in control. He is absolutely in control. God knows you are struggling, and, more importantly, he knows what he’s doing. God doesn’t cause our pain. But he can give even our senseless pain a purpose. He can bring good out of all that’s bad.

Are you in pain? Are you suffering? Always remember: You are God's child. You are loved. And, if you listen carefully, you might hear him whispering, "DON'T GIVE UP!"  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Paraclete!

I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but I will send him to you if I go. John 16:7

The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

Paraclete is a Greek word that Jesus used for the Holy Spirit.   Paraclete has several meanings in English, such as "advocate", “counselor”, "intercessor", "teacher, "helper", and "comforter".  Meditate for a moment on each of those qualities. 

Isn't it true that we need one of these roles at any given moment in our life? The scripture passages above, tell us the primary role of the Paraclete is to make perfect sense of the teachings of Christ, to open our eyes to the Truth. 

At Jesus' request, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to energize the Church after he ascended.  At the event we call "Pentecost," the Apostles went from quivering wimps in hiding to fearless, enthusiastic teachers of the faith.  How?  What changed?  Just one thing, they received into themselves the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit.  Would our faith go from wimpy to bold if we welcomed the Holy Spirit into our lives? 

We recognize the Spirit's influence on people we know when we see it. If someone is full of life and energy, we say they are "spirited."  That’s the Spirit's role, to fill us with joy and enthusiasm because we understand the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Pray for that. Pray for the Spirit to fill you!

So, where does the Spirit lead us?  He leads us to the teachings of Jesus and opens our eyes to the truth of them. And what is the truth of his teachings?  Jesus tells us clearly - "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."  John 13:34-35

That’s it!  It isn’t complicated. Our call is to love!  

So what does the love Jesus speaks of require from us?  This love, Jesus asks of us, requires that we be able to find good in everyone. And he truly means everyone: your family, your neighbor, and even your enemy. Love for your enemy who harmed you, love for your neighbor who dumps his lousy attitude on you; love for the parent who physically or mentally abused you and left you paralyzed in fear and low self-esteem; love for the child who neglects you; love for the lover or spouse who has betrayed your trust by seeking a self-indulgent relationship that leaves the very harmony of life in ruins; everyone! The call to love is simple yet amazingly challenging.

How do we achieve this kind of love?  Only with the help of ... The Paraclete!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

That God exists is not an issue for me.  To imagine a world view where God is absent is unimaginable and illogical.  

That God is a loving God, a God who cares about His creation, is also an awareness that resonates in me.  You might ask: “Why then is there pain and suffering in the world? How can a loving God allow this? It's because we underestimate - undervalue - our freedom from God, our free will. We are free, entirely free to explore, free to choose, and free to reject.  We can choose to disbelieve or ignore God, because He made us that way. He allowed us that freedom. 

The opposite of love is evil.  Once His love is rejected all forms of horror are possible. What you see too often in the world is the rejection of God's love.

If God is a lover, he longs to be loved in return.  And only freedom allows love. Without freedom, what would our response to God be? Duty? Fear? God created us free so that we could choose to love Him.  

To choose love … is … to choose God.

God is all about love.