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As long as you have to defend the imaginary self
that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart.
As soon as you compare that shadow
with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy,
because you have begun to trade in unrealities
and there is no joy in things that do not exist.

Thomas Merton

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Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

A question has been raised on this blog: Are we all the children of God, or just some of us?  I tend to side with my friend Ruth and say yes, all of us. Even those of us who aren’t Catholic (as I am). Or even religious. Heck, I believe that vehement atheists are children of God.

Blasphemy? I think not. See, St. John said it best in his first epistle: “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”

Makes it all rather simple, doesn’t it? If God is love, then He is available to anyone, anywhere. We can all make God present through the simple act of loving. Isn’t that a rather nice way to view the world?

Jesus himself presented love as the greatest commandment: Love God and love one another. But what if someone doesn’t love God but does love others? That’s where St. John comes in. God is love. By loving others, we love God. It’s a whole Abou ben Adhem thing.

Who is a child of God? We need look no further than Christ’s own actions. According to the Gospels, He was often seen with riff-raff, tax-collectors, women. Not exactly the expected entourage for The Messiah. But these were His friends. If the cast-offs of the world were good enough for the Son of God, they are good enough for me, His most lowly and humble servant.

All that I have is from You, Lord.
But I feel so inadequate to the task.
Help me take a deep breath and
hear Your voice calming me,
instructing me in what I need to do.

Only with You
will I find the bravery
to do what You would have me do,
from big tasks to small,
finding fellow believers
on the way.

In Your name I pray,
Amen.

 

One of the parables that I taught in my class was the Parable of the Ten Minas, sometimes called the Parable of the Nobleman’s Money.  It is similar to the Parable of the Talents.

In the Parable of the Minas, a ruler journeys to a distant land.  Before he leaves, he gives ten of his servants ten minas and tells them to put the money to work until his return.  Predictably, two do well and earn a good return.  One, believing his master to be unjustifiably harsh, hides the money away and is punished.

One of the differences between this and the Parable of the Talents is the unit of money.  It takes 60 minas to equal a single talent.  What could the master hope for his servants to accomplish with so little?

Some scholars believe the key is in the number itself.  Ten is a number that indicates completeness.  Ten servants and ten minas represent enough to get the job done, no matter how great the task.

How often do we look at our talents and doubt that we have what it takes?  Surely if God wanted me to do something grand, he’d have made me a leader.  He’d give me the gift of healing.  Right?  But the Parable of the Minas helps us see that even “minor” talents count.

Think back to the “important” people from your childhood.  Were these people national leaders?  Top surgeons?  Or was it the father who took you apple picking?  The mother who read to you?  The grandmother who taught you to bake cookies?

No matter what your talents are, they are equal to the task of serving God.  If you feel inadequate, maybe, like the problem servant, you have hidden your talent away.

This past summer, I redecorated my son’s bedroom.  He wanted a water theme.  New paint.  New art work.  New drapes.  New dresser.  As much as I wanted to give it to him, it simply wasn’t in the budget.  But I could paint.  I had two dressers I could refinish.  I found a partial bolt of denim in the basement and made a new curtain.  Then I saw a piece of artwork that wouldn’t quite work, but I got busy on Illustrator and created my own.

A lot of work?  You bet.  But I had more fun doing this than I’ve had at a household task in a very long time.  I love refinishing, reworking and repurposing things.  Unfortunately, we live in a society that worships what’s new and shiny.  Picking up old furniture is ok when your college student but . . . later?  I put this talent aside.  I bought new or did without.

I could continue to do that, or I could put my God-given gifts to work.  How is this talent going to end up serving God?  I don’t know, but until I get a nudge in a specific direction, and I’m certain it will come, I’m working on my home office.  So far I’ve cleaned out about 10 boxes of books that will resupply classrooms and libraries in storm ravaged parts of my state.  Maybe this small bit of aid is what God had in mind for me.  Maybe it will turn into something bigger.  I don’t know, but until I figure it out, I’ve got a rediscovered gift to grow.

–SueBE

Luke 19:11-26

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Ten Minas

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’   14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Matthew 25:14-30
New King James Version (NKJV)
The Parable of the Talents

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

Not everything from high school English class stayed in my brain. After all, it was twenty plus years ago. I’d tell you exactly how many years it was, but then I’d be doing math. And that, I just will not do!

But I recall a word that made an impact on my noggin – syllogism, which is a phrase that contains a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.

An example of a syllogism is: “All men are human; all humans are mortal; therefore all men are mortal.”

So if you buy the implausible premise that all men are human (no offense, males of the species! I kid!!), and agree that all humans are mortal, then all men are mortal. If both of the sentences seem to make sense to you, the major and minor premises would morph into the conclusion.

But a syllogism may also be defined simply as a specious argument.

So this word means either a logical premise leading to a reasonable conclusion or an utterly invalid argument. Huh. Well, that’s quite a broad spectrum.

This is the thing about faith that has been on my mind lately. You can fully, completely, unequivocally believe in an idea, and yet, it can be an absolutely false notion. On the other side of that concept is the fact that many things we do not want to believe in are one hundred percent true.

I’ve noticed many people of faith quoting scripture to make different groups feel that they aren’t welcome to God’s grace. Last time I checked, grace meant “unmerited favor.” Nobody can earn it; it just is. It’s not based on you, but on God.

All of us are children of God. Some of us are gay. Therefore, all gay people are children of God.

Know what I mean?

All of us deserve to be treated with respect. Some of us are atheists. Therefore, all atheists deserve to be treated with respect.

And conversely:

All people of faith pray. Some of us are judgmental. Therefore, some of us who pray are judgmental.

God’s grace speaks for itself, and there is nothing that makes anyone “eligible” for it. Wear your faith like a soft shawl, not armor or spikes, keeping everyone at bay. Live and let live. Still the best advice anyone could ever give.

Unlike Ke$ha, I do not wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy. Unless P. Diddy wakes up feeling like not getting out of bed. In which case, we are twin souls. (You’d think a guy that rich could set aside a little dough-re-mi for his twin soul, but I digress.)

The “not wanting to get out of bed” thing isn’t depression; it’s creature comfort. (“Bed good. Bed comfortable. Sleep nice.”) Also, it’s a point of view. Outside of bed are all the things that need doing. All the things that must be worried about. It’s sooo much easier to just not deal.

Only that’s all wrong. Why am I so focused on the few things that aren’t perfect in my life, instead of overjoyed about the thousands of things that are, if not perfect, at least darned close? Why dwell on the negative?

Maybe because it’s easier. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa with a mustache drawn on it. All you can see is the mustache. That the rest of the painting is magnificent is easy to ignore, perhaps because we are accustomed to its beauty. It’s like life. My life is essentially very good. I have more than most people in the world can lay claim to. It’s all Mona Lisa, yet I can’t stop seeing the mustache. It is a great character flaw, and one I will probably spend my life trying to conquer.

Step one: Accentuate the positive. I am greatly thankful to have wonderful friends, a loving husband, adorable companion animals, a home, and several more than two pairs of shoes in the closet. Not to mention, a comfy bed.

Next up, I will endeavor to awaken each morn as though I have a dollar sign in the middle of my name. It couldn’t hurt.

Lord,
As we travel
down the road
before us,
open our eyes.

Help us see the neighbor,
helpless and beaten,
who needs our help.

Give us the courage
to silence our fears
and help
as you have
instructed us.

Amen

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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