Monday, March 26, 2012

Raised Up

Readings: 2 Kings 2:9-15, Genesis 5:21-24, Acts 1:1-11, Mark 16:14-20

Ever feel like the world is sometimes just too much? You look up to the beautiful blue and peaceful sky and think how nice it would be to just float up beyond all the trouble, sickness, hurting, and anger of the world.

Just like it happened to Elijah and Enoch...and Christ.

The stories of Elijah and Enoch have always been fascinating. It's hard to imagine a person, while still alive and functioning, to be lifted up into the heavens. Yet it happened--at least three in our readings in the Bible. The third, of course, was the ascension of Christ.

Even though we might not be lifted up physically, we nevertheless can rest assured that we will be lifted up spiritually any time we need it. Just as Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, so can we ask for a double portion of faith, of hope, of understanding, of patience. 

Sometimes, however, it seems it might be just as easy to float up to the clouds as it is to ask for these things from our loving Father.


Maybe pride, maybe fear, maybe a lack of understanding just how important a good dose of the spirit is for us and for those around us. It's difficult for us to take that deep breath, to humble ourselves, to move beyond the world of worry and self-doubt and just ask...ask for that double portion of spirit.

But...once we receive that spirit...we will soar. Maybe not in body, but certainly in spirit.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Air Pollution of a Different Kind

Readings: Isaiah 55:6-11, James 1:22-27, John 16:23-30

The weather has been unseasonably warm and beautiful here, to say the least. Rather than toughing out the end of winter and looking toward the beginning of spring with coats and gloves at the ready, we've instead been given the reprieve of washing the blankets, gloves, jackets, and all things winter and drying them on the clothesline in fresh breezes with warm, sunny skies. What a treat!

Needless to say, the heat has been shut off in the house in favor of open windows and fresh air coming in to chase out the stale air of colder days. It's during these times that I feel for those who live in places and spaces where they don't feel safe to open a window wide and let the outside air come in through screens. Along with the fear of open windows, the frustration of what is heard in such an environment is enough to drive even the most patient person to distraction. Instead of bird song, the singing of frogs, and the distant call of the wild turkeys, they are bombarded with loud, blaring music-- many times with lyrics full of hate and revenge on someone or something; threats made from the streets in shouting voices, hate-filled arguments and cries for help or comfort. 

Definitely air pollution of a different kind.

We turn to James to see what God asks of us when we see others hopeless and helpless in these conditions. His words are clear: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (v.22,27).

But how can we be helpful to people both nearby and far away? Prayer, of course, and a little action on our part. Just because I live in a quiet, rural area doesn't mean that all those around me aren't having difficult in some way. Maybe drop by with some fresh vegetables or maybe some soup. We can sit and listen. And for those far away? Perhaps a card, an good old-fashioned hand written letter, or a phone call that's not hurried. We can give our time--and Christ will help us to see who needs what. "I tell you the truth, the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:23). To assure us of giving us help in order to help others, the beautiful words of Isaiah show us: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. So is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (v.10,11).

Let's all work together and help fight air pollution...of all kinds.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Beauty (and Enormity) of Truth

Readings: Isaiah 29:9-14, James 1:17-21, John 16:4-15

Truth. Five little letters that can turn a civilization on its ear. Or set us free. Or instantaneously alienate us from those who, as the famous movie line states, "Can't handle the truth."

Truth in our society has become rare; nevertheless, we hear the word tossed about ad nauseum in newspapers, magazines, online, on television, on the radio. A word easy to say, but seemingly difficult to live.

To be truthful takes a great deal focus. Our greatest teacher of perfect truth shares with us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like lifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:17-21).

These words were written long ago, yet they resonate a timeless message. We were all born with the ability to know truth; yet through the darker side of mankind, we have fallen time and again in our inability to just be honest about who we are, what we do, what we need, what matters to us. As a result, there is pain. We have taken a beautiful planet and turned it ugly through greed, lies, one-upmanship, and needing to be #1. And, as a result, we are paying dearly.
"The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish" (Isaiah 29: 13-14). Man is fallible--pure truth cannot be men's or women's words alone--they have to be channeled through us from God to be pure. How often we forget or ignore this.

John 16:13 gives us beautiful hope, however: "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth."

The next time we are engaged in a conversation with others, or even with ourselves, we need to ask the Spirit of truth to guide us. 

We can handle the truth...we just need to get re-acquainted with it.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

How Can We NOT Believe?

Readings:  Isaiah 40:25-31, I Peter  2:11-20, John 16:16-22

I've been reading a layman's book on cranial-sacral therapy to better understand the good changes happening to me and those around me who have started receiving treatments. As Tom and I were headed out in the car yesterday, I was reading passages from the interesting book. The process and how it affects the skull, the dura mater, the spinal column, etc. was given in great depth accompanied by several illustrations. As I read more and more, I finally looked over at Tom and asked, "HOW can people NOT believe in God?" All the intricacies of the human body! What a wondrous miracle our bodies are! And they just happened?


I love the words of Isaiah 40:26, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them by name. Because of his great power and strength, not one of them is missing." Any of us who have been out on a clear night and where we can see the heavens without the interference of artificial lights feels overwhelmed by the magnificence of what seems to be millions of stars. God's work indeed. 

I'm not sure why we humans find it difficult to believe in a loving creator. Again, the words in Isaiah: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (40: 28-29). We appreciate and defend other religions to freely practice their faith; yet when it comes to our own, we too often become apologists. The result?
In the March 2012 issue of The Lutheran, the statistics are depressing: 44% of those polled in a Baylor University survey in 2011 responded that they spend no time seeking "eternal wisdom" and 19% responded with "It's useless to search for meaning"; another statistic reported that back in 2007 6.3% of those surveyed by the Pew Forum's Religious Landscape Survey consider themselves completely secular--religion was not at all important in their lives--one can only imagine what that number is now.

I have a feeling that this disconnectedness is in direct connection to the "it's all about me" revolution that has swept the country in the past few years. If it never enters my mind as a disciple of Christ to love my neighbor as myself, I'm just pretty much going to end up just loving myself...let my neighbor figure out his/her own deal.

Sigh.Is there no hope for the believers and for encouraging others to believe? 

Absolutely there is hope...there's always hope where there is faith. But we also know that the world will become more and more separated from us as we travel through this short span of this lifetime and, of course, this saddens us. John 16:22 tells it beautifully: "So with you; now is the time of grief, and I will see you again and you will rejoice, for no one will take away your joy." In the meantime, we also know that our quest is to win others over to the perfect love of Christ and of God by helping those around us. We look to our own backyards as well as across the globe to see where we can emulate the love of Christ through our good works. Faith is the answer, but as Paul shared with us, our faith leads us to follow Christ's example and to love and help our brothers and sisters on Earth. How indeed can we NOT believe just how important it is TO believe in order to share the Good News with others?

Peace be with you.