Build a Prayer Wall

Is anyone else tired of it?  Tired of the fighting?  Tired of the politicians (on both sides)?  Tired of the interior walls that bind all of us?  Tired of the media creating controversy because it “sells”?

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.

You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:1-3

All of our fighting, all of our conflict arises when we put our own passions, our own desires, above those of God.  We fight over everything, it seems.  We become so impassioned that we believe we are right, even when we do not understand all of the facts.  We judge those who are against us, without ever considering their side.  They are wrong because of the color of their skin, the political party that they support, the country that they come from, or even the hat that they wear.  They are wrong because they dare to disagree with us.  What is it we are fighting for?

Do we ever stop to ask God’s will?  Do we ever stop to ask God for whatever it is that we believe is so worth fighting over?  As the above passage states: “You do not possess because you do not ask.” We cannot win, we cannot gain, anything worth winning from someone else on earth.  The only things worth “winning” come from God.  Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7.  But do we ask?  And if we ask, do we do it for the right reasons?  “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”  Do we ask so that we can do God’s will or so that we can throw it in the face of our opponent?

I am saddened this weekend by the news out of Washington.  A group of high school students from a Catholic high school were confronted by adults near the Lincoln Memorial, likely because they wore the red campaign hats from President Trump saying Make America Great Again.  The media immediately accused the boys, who were there for an anti-abortion March for Life, of creating the controversy.  And very quickly the entire social media universe was against them.  I was not there.  I did not see what happened, but then neither did the media or the many accusers now lining up against them.  What I did see on a video was a teenage boy standing still and not saying a word despite an adult male coming very close to him while banging a drum.  The media called it a stare down.  I saw a boy not knowing what to do, and so not doing anything.  His so called smirk, looked to me to be the same uncomfortable look that I get on my face when I am placed in an uncomfortable situation.  I understand the man with the drum was trying to diffuse a situation.  I understand some of the boys began to fear a confrontation from a group of people with whom they probably did not have prior experience.  As in most human situations, there was probably errors made on all sides of the equation.  How quickly we spin things out of control.  How quickly we jump to conclusions on either side of the controversy.    To what gain?

Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

We fight over issues without knowing the facts.  We judge others based on the word of others or based on what the media reports.  We create controversy out of misunderstandings and mistakes and make no effort to understand or forgive.   (Oh how I pray that God does not do the same to us.)  We equate a wall with hatred instead of protection.  I am all for a wall if it will give us protection, but I am not sure it will.  There is too much evil on the inside of the wall as well — from all sides.  We need help.  As America, as individuals, we need help.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

James 4:6-10

We know we need to ask and it will be given.  But we need to ask for the right reasons.  We need, as a country, to humble ourselves to God.  We need to ask for God’s help and ask that His will be done.  We need to surround ourselves with a wall of protection — a prayer wall.  A wall impenetrable by evil, whether inside or outside the country’s borders.  A wall that unites us, all of us, in Jesus’ name.  A wall that cloaks us in God’s goodness.  I beg, each of you, to help me build this prayer wall.  Prayer by prayer.  Let’s cover our nation  with prayer.  Let’s provide this country the protection it needs — God’s protection.

Lord,

We need help.  This country needs help and I need help.  We all struggle.  We all think we are right.  We are all steeped in pride and need help with understanding, patience and forgiveness.  We need your help!  Help us and all of our country’s leaders and individuals on the street, both democratic and republican, to be humble and to seek your will rather than any human agenda.  Help us to teach our children peace and understanding rather than rash judgments as harsh and hateful as any words exchanged.  Help us to lead others to you, rather than pushing them away.  Help us to build a prayer wall.  Connecting prayer by prayer across the country.  Connecting person by person to each other and to you.  Lord, you are the only one who can protect and save any of us.  Help us, Lord.  We need more of you in our lives.

 

Do this is memory of me

This morning at Catholic mass, I heard the words that are familiar to so many of us:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

Luke 22:19

I have heard these words every week since before I was old enough to know what the words meant.  And today, for the first time, I think I understood them.

Jesus commands us to do this in memory of Him.  But do what?  I have always believed that He was just telling us to go to church on Sunday and celebrate the Eucharist.  But today, I focused on the actual words.  This is my body, which will be given for you. Jesus is giving up his body… for us.  He is giving himself… for us.  “Do this in memory of me.”  This is what He is calling us to do.  Give ourselves for others.  Give ourselves to Jesus. Its not just about breaking bread or drinking wine.  He is calling us to do.  He is calling us to give.  He is calling us to love.  John captures His words in this way:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13

“Do this in memory of me.”  It is a tall order.  Just showing up at mass on Sunday is a lot easier.  Give myself for someone else?  Lay down my life for someone else?  Lay down my wants and needs for someone else?  Put someone else ahead of me?  Ouch.  I can barely hand over the remote control. But this is what Jesus calls us to do.  This is what true love is.  It’s not just the romantic love we see on tv. It’s not lust.  It’s not sex.  It’s not just enjoying the other person’s company.  It is giving one’s self, putting one’s own needs to the side, and laying down one’s life for someone else.

And today at mass, as the priest said these words, I got it.  Jesus loves me.  Jesus gave his life for me.  How can I not try (and I say try, because I know I will fail) to give myself fully to God, as He gave Himself to me?

Jesus,

You came to earth to show us what love is.  A love so strong and pure that we cannot fathom its depths.  Our own selfish needs, or more accurately “wants”, keep us from being capable of the love that you shared.  And yet you still call us to do it.  Jesus I love you with all of the love that I am capable of today, but I want to love you deeper.  Help me to continue to grow.  I want to give myself fully to you.  Help me to love here on earth with the love that you have shared.  Help me to give up my selfish ways and let go of the need to control.  Help me to give myself for the others I encounter.

 

Love through the Hurt

We are hurt.  Everyday.  By friends.  By loved ones.  By politicians.  By priests and pastors.  By people that we put our trust in.  And likely, we hurt many of these same people.  Everyday.   We are human.  We err.  We make mistakes.  We are selfish.  We are prideful.  And … so is everyone else.

Today, the country is divided by walls not even built, by politicians and media.  I am not sure any of them know what is right.  Yet, we choose sides and are hurt by anyone who chooses differently.  We focus on issues and political parties rather than focusing on God.

Today, many are struggling in the Catholic Church over the abuse perpetrated by some priests and the cover up perpetrated by others.  The devil knows how to strike where it can do the most damage.  The Church is hurt by the people we put our trust in.

There is so much hurt in the world.  So much unforgiveness.

This week, Jesus placed two passages on my heart:

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?  You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

We all sin.  Yet, we all think that we can judge.  I certainly can judge that there is evil in the world.  I certainly can judge that there is sin.  But can I judge another person?  Can I judge their struggle with evil?  Their struggle with sin?  Can my sin stand up to my own judgment?  I know it cannot.  I need God’s judgment and God’s grace and mercy.  Only God can truly know our heart and our struggles.  Only God can judge the person.  We can judge the sin and evil, and we should judge to stop and prevent.  But only God can judge the person.  We are called to love, even when we are hurt.  Because God loves us, even when we hurt him.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.  In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:16-21

We may not be able to stop others from hurting us.  We are human and so are they.  But we can stop the “hurt” from hurting us.  We can love.  We can hate the sin, hate the evil and work to stop and prevent it.  But we can love the person and leave it to God to judge their soul.

Jesus,

Thank you for showing me your love.  I am not worthy.  I am sorry for the times that I have hurt you.  I am sorry for the times I have turned away.  Help me to love others even when they hurt me.  Help me to bring your peace to the world.

 

 

Be Wise This Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve.  All the presents are wrapped. The hustle and bustle is coming to an end. Finally, a chance to sit and open the Bible, and here is where it opened:

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent.  For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil; then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Romans 16:17-20

My first thought was, “well, that’s not a very cheery Christmas message.”  And so I read it again.  It is hard, at first, to see the Christmas cheer in this verse, which very clearly contains a warning.  Watch out for those who create dissension and obstacles in opposition to God’s teaching.  Watch out for fair and flattering speech that deceives the hearts of the innocent.

Perhaps this is a perfect message for Christmas, a holiday that is supposed to celebrate our Lord and Savior’s human birth, but has become filled with wrapping paper, scuffles in the mall and “Holiday” celebrations so we do not offend anyone who is not fortunate enough to believe.  A holiday in which we spend more time talking about believing in Santa instead of believing in God.  I am as guilty as the next in terms of getting “caught up” in the “season”, in the obstacles and fair and flattering speech.  We say the words, we sing the songs, but what are we celebrating?  And at the end of the day, do we feel the joy that Jesus offers us, or just the headache of in-laws and high credit card bills?

Paul’s words to the Romans, are a good reminder today.  And his wish for them, is my wish for all of us this Christmas:

Be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil.

May you have a Merry Christmas, filled with the Joy of knowing Jesus.

Battle cry

I am anxious, nervous, excited and certainly on edge.  Tomorrow will be a big day.  My son’s team is preparing for a big game.  It is all I have thought about today, actually most of the week.  The game… and God.  I want this victory.  I want it bad.  Our team is the underdog.  But I don’t have any say in who wins.  I can’t play.  All I can do is cheer on the sidelines… and pray.

This verse from Deuteronomy gives me comfort:

When you go out to war against your enemies and you see horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD, your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, will be with you.

When you are drawing near to battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the army, and say to them, “Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies. Do not be weakhearted or afraid, alarmed or frightened by them. For it is the LORD, your God, who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies and give you victory.”

Deuteronomy 20:1-4

I may not be able to be on the field with them, but God will be.

No matter what our challenge of the day may be, God is with us.

Sometimes life seems like it is full of battles.  Some are much bigger than others.  We battle in athletic competitions, we battle in politics, we battle in the workplace, we battle against ourselves.  Sometimes we battle just to get up.  It can be frightening, it can be exhausting, it can be stressful.  We can feel like we are all alone.  But there is no need to be anxious, no need to be nervous, no need to be on edge.  God is with us.  And He is fighting for us. He is not just sitting on the sidelines.  And that is freeing, that is empowering, that is comforting.  He is my battle cry.

So I am excited to see what tomorrow brings. I am excited to see how this battle is won.  I pray to God for a victory, and I am comforted to know that God is with me.  God’s got this — even when I don’t.

Lord,

I know that you are with us everyday, in whatever battle or challenge we face.  I am not afraid.  Help me to stand strong in whatever battle comes my way.  I pray for victory.  The victory that you have in store for us.  (And if it is your will, I pray for victory for my son’s team tomorrow.)

 

Playoff time is Prayoff time

Victory.  That is what many sports teams are after as they move into playoffs and final games.  Victory.  In sports, we love the story of the underdog.  The David vs. Goliath story.  The team that defies the odds.

I have always loved the story of David and Goliath.  It has to be one of the more popular and well-known stories of the Bible.  As I re-read it today, I realized that I had forgotten that David volunteered to take on Goliath.  He had complete confidence that he would be victorious.  Saul and his brothers thought he was crazy.  But David had complete confidence, not because he was super human or athletically gifted, but because he had God on his side.  His confidence was because he had complete faith.  He boldly told Goliath why he could beat him with just a sling and a stone:

“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have insulted.”

1 Samuel 17:45

No matter our strength or our talent, we are undefeatable when we are with God, when we have faith.

My son is currently playing in the high school soccer playoffs.  Although I feel silly spending time in prayer about a high school soccer game, I still do.  I know there are so many greater things to pray about — including in our own lives, and yet still I ask God, if it is your will, help these young men shine your light and your strength and help them bring home a victory.  Somehow, it comes easy to pray over a sporting event, but then I forget to do the same for the everyday challenges and victories in my own life.

All of our victories big and small are made possible through God.  I love when athletes are humble enough to recognize that their abilities and talents are gifts from God.  Tim Tebow was a great example of someone who chose not to forgot his faith on the field. But sometimes I wonder about whether the athletes who point to the sky are truly thanking God, or just saw someone else do it and think it makes them look cool or think they are signaling that they are number one.  I hope they are truly thanking God.  But as frustrated as I sometimes get with athletes who seem to be feigning a recognition to God for their touchdown or miraculous catch, I realize that rarely do I remember to recognize God for my daily accomplishments at home or at work.

Earlier in the book of Samuel, Hannah praises God, who has gifted her with a child (Samuel).  Her words remind me of how arrogant I am not to thank God for everything that I do, everything that I accomplish.  I don’t need to throw a touchdown pass to thank God:

There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God.  Speak boastfully no longer, Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.  For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who weighs actions.  The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength.

1 Samuel 2: 2-4

Her prayer is a great reminder.  There is nothing I can legitimately boast about or take credit for.  All of my gifts and talents come from God.  All of my actions (even the best of them) are nothing compared to those of the Lord.

It also reminds me that we are all Davids.  We are all the underdogs in the world.  When we think we alone are something different, when we boast or try to be the mighty, without God, we will fall.  We will be broken.  But with God, the underdogs, the tottering, become the mighty.  We can put on the strength and armor of our God, through our faith.  And we can be victorious.

Lord,

There is no one like you.  There is no one all powerful and all knowing but you.  You are my rock.  You are my strength.  Through you I know  I can do anything.  Through you I know my son’s soccer team can do anything.  I pray that they have the faith to believe — not just today, not just for a game, but throughout life.  Through you they can accomplish anything.

 

 

 

 

Father, Should I?

Remember the game Mother May I — the children’s game where the children have to ask “mother may I take three steps forward” (or whatever movement they want to make) to the “mother” player, with the goal being to be the first person to reach where “mother” is standing.

I was reminded of this today, when the Bible opened to the first book of Samuel.  I read several stories about David going into battle.  Each time, he asked the Lord whether he should go.

David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue these raiders? Can I overtake them?” The LORD answered him: Go in pursuit, for you will certainly overtake them and bring about a rescue.

1 Samuel 30:8

I find that I frequently ask the Lord for help or things I want, things I think will help me on the path I have chosen.  But I don’t often ask him for advice as to what I should do.  Unlike the game, God does not require us to ask permission before we make a move.  We can always take 3 giant leaps forward, if we want.  But, I wonder what the result would be if we more frequently asked Him whether we should, before we made a move.  Is it any wonder that David accomplished so much on the battlefield, when he asked God before pursuing battle, if he should?  Perhaps, like in the children’s game, we would reach Father more easily if we asked for his permission and guidance?

Lord,

Thank you for everything you do for me, and your constant love and guidance.  Help me find the path that you have chosen.  I want to know your way, not my own. I need your guidance.  Help me to include you in my decision process to include you in every part of my life.  Help me to listen and hear what you say.  Help me to have the courage to follow.  That is what I want.  Prevent the many distractions from the world from clouding my vision or my heart’s desire.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Beautiful Day to Praise God!

I woke up early and took my bible out on the front porch to watch the world take light.  As the sun began to warm the earth with His warmth and light, the Bible opened to the Wisdom of Ben Sira:

The beauty of the celestial height and the pure firmament, heaven itself manifests its glory.  The sun at its rising shines at its fullest, a wonderful instrument, the work of the Most High!

Sirach 43:1-2

Although it stormed most of the night, God’s beauty continues to shine around us.  We lost electrical power during the night — just further evidence that our man-made power is no match for God’s power.  But no matter how dark the night or how powerful the storm, God always continues to shine His light around us, and His light is beautiful!

Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor; It spans the heavens with its glory, the hand of God has stretched it out in power.

Sirach 43:11-12

The peacefulness of the morning surrounds me.  The melodious sound of the birds waking up and singing their own praises to the Lord is inspiring.  All I can think is how glorious is our God!  The Bible pages that opened before me capture my thoughts:

More than this we need not add; let the last word be, he is the all!

Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works; Awesome indeed is the LORD, and wonderful his power.

Lift up your voices to glorify the LORD as much as you can, for there is still more.

Extol him with renewed strength, do not grow weary, for you cannot fathom him.  For who has seen him and can describe him?  Who can praise him as he is?  Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have I seen.  It is the LORD who has made all things; to those who fear him he gives wisdom.

Sirach 43:27-33

O God!  You are wonderful indeed!  Thank you for giving me this beautiful day and for holding me through the storms.  The green of new life pops brightly against the clear blue tranquil sky.  I am renewed!  Let my praise be not hollow.  You surround us with beauty, with love and with hope, as each day your light shines forth, if we take the time to see.  Help me to see.  Help me to take the time to see.  Send me as your messenger, if that is your will.  Prepare me for the storms that are surely to be ahead.  You are my light!  Help me to keep my eyes on you!

 

Why Can’t We Follow the Law?

Yesterday, the Bible opened to Zechariah, and since I had never read this book before (or, honestly, even knew it existed), I read it all.  I was struck by this verse:

These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates.  Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate—oracle of the LORD.

Zechariah 8:16-17

I was struck not because it was something new, but because it was not new.  We hear these same things in the ten commandments and in Jesus’ words to us.  And of course, we (or at least I) still struggle to comply.  Sometimes it is easy to think, well He doesn’t really mean that or it is ok if I sin because He will forgive me again.  And yes, I know God will forgive when we turn to Him, but couldn’t I do a better job actually trying not to sin, actually trying not to do the things that God hates, the things that pull us away from him, the things that essentially thumb our nose at Him.  After all, He tells us what we should not do.  He tells us what hurts Him.  How do we feel when our children, our spouse or our friends do something that they know we do not like or have expressly asked them not to do?

Sometimes it feels like in today’s world, we are quick to ignore the rules that don’t suit us or that don’t match with what we want.  The media is filled right now with the immigration issue and whether any punishment should occur when someone illegally crosses the border.  What always strikes me about this whole debate is that we get mad when anyone wants to enforce the law.  There is no dispute that the immigrants at issue are “illegal”.  In other words they have broken our laws.  I am not saying I necessarily agree with the law (but the fix is to change the law), but what happened to the idea of following the law?  We pick and choose what laws we will follow.  How dare anyone tell us what we can and cannot do.  How dare anyone tell our children what they can and cannot do.  (How many times do we see in the media stories where parents are outraged because a school enforced a rule against their child?) How dare anyone discipline our children when they violate a rule.

Do we display the same attitude to God?  How dare God tell us what to do?  Oh I hope I do not!

God,

Forgive me!  Forgive me for turning away from you, for not listening, for not following your commandments.  Forgive me for not always holding love in my heart, for listening to, and spreading, gossip.  Forgive me for judging others, for not being honest with myself or others.  Forgive me for not trying enough to do better.  I want to be a better reflection of you and your love.  Help me Lord.  I need you.

Return, Repent, Rejoice, Rest

It has been awhile.  Life, as usual, has gotten in the way.  The daily grind.  The tireless pursuit of … what? career? money? love? rest? Exhausting.  Today, I returned to the Bible.  And here is where it opened:

In the second year of Darius, in the eighth month, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:  The LORD was very angry with your ancestors.  Say to them: Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return to me—oracle of the LORD of hosts—and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.  Do not be like your ancestors to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Turn from your evil ways and from your wicked deeds.  But they did not listen or pay attention to me—oracle of the LORD.— Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, can they live forever?  But my words and my statutes, with which I charged my servants the prophets, did these not overtake your ancestors?  Then they repented and admitted: “Just as the LORD of hosts intended to treat us according to our ways and deeds, so the LORD has done.”

Zechariah 1:1-6

How many times in the Bible does God remind us that all we need to do is return to Him?  Here are just a few examples:

  • Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.  Joel 2:13
  • Return, Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have stumbled because of your iniquity.  Hosea 14:2
  • If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; if you put iniquity far from your tent.  Job 22:23
  • I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.  Jeremiah 24:7
  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  James 4:8
  • In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:10

Throughout the Bible, the message is consistent: return to God.  No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done… return…  repent… rejoice and rest in God’s love.  Jesus makes it clear with three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and finally the prodigal son.  Luke 15:1-32  And then he tells us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Lord,

Your mercy and love is far too gracious for us to comprehend.  I do not know how or why I let life get in the way, chasing things that do not bring me the peace and joy and rest that only you can provide.  Thank you for always being there when I return.  You have made this beautiful world full of so many wonderful things.  I want to see and experience it all, but I want to do that with you.