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‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31 NIV

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Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:18 NIV

Here in central Jersey, everyone’s talking about the Rutgers webcam trial.

Two young people, adult in name only, were living for the first time outside of their natural habitats in a college dorm.

Each of them had always kept to their own kind, as most of us do.  When they finally got into the real world, all they knew of each other was based on racial profiling and schoolyard stereotypes.

Darhun Ravi texted to a friend that he wanted to “Keep the gays away.”

Tyler Clementi texted to a friend that his new roommate’s family “Probably owned a Dunkin Donuts.”

Distance is measured in degrees, and this space between them eventually became a wall. Ravi turned his webcam on while Clementi was on a date with a man, “tweeting” to friends about it. This violation of privacy led Clementi to end his own life.

Early on, Ravi was offered a plea bargain that would have kept him from being sentenced to serious jail time, but his family refused it.  His father spoke to the press just prior to the verdict being announced.

“My son was not raised to have hate in his heart. We are not hateful people. My wife and I are not like that. We have not raised our family to be like that. I know my son, and he is not a hateful person. Whatever he did to Tyler was not out of bias toward him,” Pazhani Ravi said.

The part of this quote that stood out to me was “My wife and I are not like that.”  As if, we could never have produced a child who would do hateful things since we are not hateful people. But our teenagers are more influenced by their peers and YouTube than our values, no matter what we might believe.  Character is no longer a family heirloom.

Ravi was found guilty and will be sentenced to jail time and possibly deported. The trial may be over, but the pain lingers on.  If only there was a way to get to know each other before we form an opinion. It doesn’t feel like the healing has even started yet.

 

You know how it goes. The busier we are, the less time we have to connect with friends and family. When I’m disconnected for too long, I feel adrift. Then I whine. I whine about no one calling me and asking me to do anything. Sometimes I whine at my husband. Sometimes I whine at God.

This was one of those weeks. I faced a Monday deadline, three Thursday deadlines and a Saturday deadline. Sunday I decided to take a break and touch base with my father.

“I’m taking you out to lunch Thursday,” he said.

“I can’t, Dad. I’ve got 3 deadlines on Thursday and that’s my short work day.”

“I don’t have any other plans. We’re doing lunch.”

Clearly, I wasn’t getting through, but I refused to commit. “I’ll give you a call on Wednesday and let you know if I’ve gotten enough done by then.”

How could I possibly fit it in?

We’ve established in the past that sometimes God has to send a message my way two or three times before it permeates the fog of my busy-ness. It wasn’t until later, after a particular phone call, that I realized this was communique #1 and, as usual, I missed it.

Monday, I left a message for a friend. He’s even busier than I am, but I knew he’d call back when he got a chance. Tuesday, I needed to get up from the computer and take a break so I called but didn’t leave a message.

About five minutes later, the phone rang. “I don’t have time to talk I’m right in the middle of Madrigal competition with my students but I didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off and I’ll call you tomorrow when I have a minute okay bye.”

First, I laughed. Then I really truly did receive message #2. No matter how ridiculously busy I am, I’m not in this alone. I have friends. People do reach out to me. And if the busiest person I know has time for a stream of conscious run on phone call in the middle of competitions, I can certainly fit in time for lunch.

After all, I’m dense, not completely clueless. God heard me, now its time for me to hear Him. But I am left wondering, one thing. How many times does God have to repeat himself because I send out pleas for help, but then don’t listen for an answer?

Probably more often than I realize.

–SueBE

Oh Lord, lighten my load.
Relieve me of the need to carry
deadweight that drags down my soul.

If I face my own truth, it must be said:
I carry a pocketful of stones to throw at strangers.
Relieve me of this burden.
Replace it with grace.

If I reflect instead Your mercy,
I shine instead of shun.
I feel instead of fear.

Lighten my load, oh Lord.
Replace it this day with grace.

Amen.

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. 15 Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. 16 And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment–wickedness was there, in the place of justice–wickedness was there. 17 I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” 18 I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Malaise.  Ennui.  Everything sounds better in French, doesn’t it?  Even something negative sounds inviting.  The English equivalent sounds like a bag of rocks.  Doldrums.  Worse yet: torpor.  How perfectly blah!

I’ve thought about the various ways our bodies and spirits can break down.  We can be homesick, heartsick, seasick.  You might experience a headache, a stomachache or a backache.

So here’s my question.  Can you have a soulache?

How about this: Can you be lifesick?

Ecclesiastes 3 seems to be a microcosm of the whole human experience.  At one point, the author says “There is a time for everything…be happy… do good (while) you live.”  But later, he says, “Everything is meaningless!”  It’s even more of a downer in the King James Version:  “Vanity of vanities!”

So what’s the deal?  Is this chapter making the case for optimism or pessimism?  I really think it could be both.

This may not be something you’d find specifically in the Bible, but there are things we have to do in life that really just stink on ice.  Sometimes there’s no way to get to the better days except through the hard times.

Let’s think about what we need to pack into our kit bag to cure soul-sickness.

Faith:  Prayer is like a vaccination against soul-sickness; it can inoculate you against the disease of negativity.

Fellowship: Finding a place of fellowship with people who believe as you do makes you feel less alone in the world.

Forte:  Without a sense of purpose, we’re left with a sense of inertia – we don’t know where we’re going or why we’re here.

Fortitude:  Do what you can and leave the rest up to God.  Note:  Please don’t expect Him to do the dishes for you!

Future:  Sometimes you need to look past what’s in front of you and hang your hopes on the belief that it will get better.

It doesn’t matter how bleak things may seem.  You may be on the cusp of a breakthrough, so never give up.  Hold on to the promise of morning, pray without ceasing, and you’ll find comfort unto your soul.

Last week, I posted an open letter to the Catholic Church regarding their misguided views on contraceptives. But I neglected a salient point. Which is this:

Say you are:

a) a doctor of astrophysics

b) an accountant

c) part of the cleaning crew

At:

a) Notre Dame University

b) Catholic Charities counseling service

c) Sacred Heart Hospital

And you are:

a) Presbyterian

b) Buddhist

c) Agnostic

And your employer does not wish to provide you with health coverage that covers your contraceptives because it is against the Catholic faith to condone such practices. Okay. Wait. What?

The Church has been very clear in decrying Obama’s health plan as religious persecution. However, they have no trouble turning around and forcing the many, many people of differing faiths who work for them to accede to their moral judgments. What if the faith I practice (or don’t) is fine with the use of contraceptives? Who is the Catholic Church to say, “We are right, and you are wrong”?

Well, they are, as ever, themselves. I am a Catholic, and it is the right faith for me. But I don’t ascribe to the “be Catholic or go to hell” philosophy, not one whit. Some people don’t have access to the Church. For others, it does not fit their beliefs. There are a million reasons not to choose Catholicism. And while the Church finds that unacceptable and encourages all its members to inform others of their fundamental misunderstanding of faith and promptly convert them, I’ve never had the stomach for it.

For one, arguments over religious superiority seldom end well. Quite a number of these squabbles turn into wars, either overt or covert. Second, unless someone wants to be converted, is ready to be converted, you will only alienate them. And third (and this is where I turn heretical), I don’t think Catholicism is right for everyone. There. I said it. I believe that any way you can get to God is right. God gave us many ways, many avenues, for a reason. He wants us to come to Him. He has made it easy, giving us myriad practices, myriad outlets. Come to Him through nature — that’s fine. Come to Him through charity toward others — wonderful. Just get there, however you can.

So, again…Catholic Church, I love you. I really do. But don’t cry “bully,” then turn around and bully others. It makes you look hypocritical. And I want you to look holy. Because that’s how we get converts.

A wonderful anthem about mercy.  Sorry that there is no actual visual, but this is the version we sang last Sunday so I have a soft spot for it.

–SueBE

Dearest Lord,

We are flawed.
We falter.
We do wrong every day.

Yet, time and time again,
You shower us with mercy.

Thank you Lord,
for seeing us
for who we could be
if only we will follow You.

Amen

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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