Humble Words

Unbelief

 

For several days now, I seem to be stuck on the story about the Possessed Boy in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9: 14 – 29).  Each time I open my Bible to read on, I am drawn to rereading this story, and like always, with each read I gain new wisdom and insights.

The father asks, “If out of the kindness of your heart you can do anything to help us, please do!”

Jesus replies, “If you can?…….”

The father says, “I do believe!  Help my lack of trust!”

How many times have I spoke about, taught about, discussed and thought about my faith.  Of course I have faith!  At the end of the day, I know that I am loved and that God has a wonderful plan for me.

But, it is only with true humility that I can pray the words, ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief,’ because I have such a long way to go.

I still doubt.

I still hold on to anger.

I still question.

I still want it ‘my way.’

I still desire control.

And so, I pray…..’If you can….’ and Jesus replies, “If I can????”

And I humbly ask for a greater faith…..after all, I have mountains yet to move!

Ever Been There?

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It has been said that a thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.

I was fascinated by this definition when I first heard of it, because you see, I have experienced these ‘thin places.’  I think we all have. I can think of sacred places where I have been where I knew that there was much more there than can be seen with the eyes.

They don’t necessarily have to be churches, and if we were all truly aware and in the present moment, everywhere would be a thin place because all is sacred.

It doesn’t even have to be a place, it can be a moment, a glance, a quiet inner voice.

But there have been times and places that have taken my breath away because of the presence of the Divine.

Thin Places – God is always reaching towards us, always creating thin places where we can meet him, touch him, feel him and inhale him……we only have to stop and allow God to occupy his dwelling place within.

Storms

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Can you imagine what it must have been like to see someone walking toward you on the water?

Here you are, struggling because you have no control over this boat that is being tossed around by the winds and the waves.

You glance outward, and see the shape of a man who seems to have total control over the elements that are rendering you helpless.

It has to be some kind of a ghost, and a new fear begins to take hold.  And then you hear a familiar voice telling you not to be afraid.  How many times have you heard that phrase from the same man?

We battle with these storms everyday.  Some of them are small and last only a few moments, while others seem to take you under and leave you gasping for air.

We have a choice, we can stay focused on the waves and try to battle them ourselves, or we can look upward and see the Man who is always in front of us, ready to calm the seas and calm our hearts.

“Be not afraid.” Comforting words to hear……difficult words to live.

Very, very disturbing…

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“The chair asks that the House now observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Orlando,” Ryan said.

As he crossed his chest and bowed his head, most of the chamber followed suit.

But a handful of Democrats walked out. (Washington Post)

When I first heard this on the news this morning, I couldn’t believe my ears, so I looked it up.  Ok, so the intention was something like, ‘where’s the bill – gun legislation.’

Wow, we had better be careful….NOTHING, nothing is more powerful than prayer and to walk out when someone asks for a moment of silence, whatever the reason is really  rather arrogant and stupid.

Ok, so I understand that people are frustrated that gun laws are not tougher, but here is a question:

How do we know that in that moment of silence, someone’s heart could have been changed.

We are a very powerful and controlling people, but let’s not forget who really has the power to change things.

Perhaps a little more silence and prayer will yield greater results than all of our talking and debating.

I will be observing a moment of silence today for all of those involved with the Orlando tragedy, and for those who have hardened their hearts to the power of prayer!

“The natural man does not accept what is taught by the Spirit of God.  For him, that is absurdity.  He cannot come to know such teaching because it must be appraised in a spiritual way”
1 Corinthians 2:14.

What is Eucharist?

(This post is a little longer than most, but these feelings run deep, so thanks for stopping by)

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Eucharist Mystery, Miracle, Magic

We have come so far in our understanding of Eucharist, or have we?

(deliberately did not use ‘the’ before the word Eucharist….poetic license)

I’d like to think that all the rules and regulations regarding consecrating and receiving Eucharist originated in our beliefs of its sacredness and holiness, but I’m not so sure anymore.  Each church, while trying to interpret that last night of Jesus’ life on earth, has developed their own code when it comes to defining and distributing Eucharist.

Only an ordained Priest, a common cup vs. individual cups, to touch or not to touch, a symbol, a memory,  a Body?  In most cases, a gathering of people are present, but is it the prayer of the people or the hands of a man that Consecrates?  Is it public participation or a spectator event?

I’ve heard it argued that we should only be allowed to receive on the tongue, that we are not worthy to touch Eucharist, and yet I think back to a Supper long ago where the bread was offered and passed hand to hand.  I think of the many times I have placed Eucharist into the hands of people, dirty innocent children’s hands, calloused working hands and hands that are wrinkled from a life lived.  As I see these hands come forth, open to receive, my mind flashes back to the many church bulletins that I’ve read stating the ‘correct’ way to receive…..never with dirty hands. I can’t imagine that Jesus’ hands or the hands of His Apostles were especially clean that night long ago, we certainly know that their feet weren’t!

And the table that they sat, community, Jesus among them, sharing, eating and drinking as one. One Body. Jesus not far off elevated in a sanctuary, removed from His people.

Were there rules that first night? Was there any kind of screening  to determine who was worthy to receive?  The only One who could sit in judgement didn’t. He sat with them. He sat, hands outstretched, offering and inviting with the simple words, “Take and Eat..”  Were they in a state of grace, no sin?  I think not!  Eucharist was offered to saint and sinner, dirty hands and all. And could they touch it?  You bet!  They could experience Eucharist with all of their senses in the presence of the God-Man who is the Source. Perhaps that is the true Mystery.

I have to believe that it is because of our reverence that we have come so far from that First Eucharist, but have we lost its true meaning in all the sterility?

Although I’m not quite ready to abandon all ‘church’ interpretations of Eucharist, I am most certainly ready to expand its definition.

And so, here is my expanded version of Eucharist.  First some background: My mom is in a nursing home.  Even though it’s been over a year now, each time I walk up the steps to visit her, I cringe as I think of who lives exists behind the doors. I don’t think I will ever get used to the faces of the residents of the home, at least I hope I don’t.  I want their images to be ever before me, those who look at you but are no longer able to reach out and share their world with you because they now live in a world that we don’t have access to.  Their world, in-between, so to speak.  And yet, each one has a story…..memories of lives that are long gone and exist only in momentary flashes.

This is where my mom lives.  I am so grateful that she still knows me, but sometimes I wish that she would remember less.  She remembers my dad who passed last year as she laments over her loneliness. She suffers in silence, her words are few, but her eyes scream of the desire to go home. To rest in her eternal home.

Last week I took her outside to get a bit of sun and some fresh air.  We were enjoying the mottled blue sky and the sound of the baby birds squawking for food from their mothers, when a loud motorcycle pulled into the parking lot. The man sat on his bike for a few minutes and I wondered if he just pulled off the road for a bit of a respite, but before long the engine silenced and he headed for the entrance steps.  We glanced over to see a balding middle-aged man in jeans and a short sleeved shirt which allowed the tattoos on his arms to show.   As he ascended the steps, he glanced over to us and with a wave said, “Hello Marie” (my mom’s name).  I gave her a startled look and asked her who he was.  She smiled her Cheshire Cat – I’ve got a secret smile and raised her eyebrows.  She wasn’t going to give me any more information and so I thought that he was, perhaps, one of the workers or aides.

It was lunchtime and so we went back inside to the small cafeteria.  I wheeled her up to the table and sat beside her.  It wasn’t long before the man entered pushed a wheelchair up to our table.  The woman sitting in the chair was mumbling in Italian and I could see that there was not much dialogue between them.  It was his mother.

As we waited for the food, the man began to talk to my mother.  He took out his iPhone and played some Italian songs.  He said, “You know this song, right Marie?”  My mother nodded.  The food came and he gently and carefully fed his mother, one tiny spoonful at a time.  I could tell that this was something that he did very often.  I truly believe that his patience and compassion was more sustenance than anything on the lunch plate.  I smiled as the tears came to my eyes…..this motorcycle, tattooed man across the table from me was Incarnation.

This is Eucharist!  As is the uneducated aide who sits beside the woman who cannot lift her head from her chest.  I watch as the aide gently parts her lips so that some of the mush that is disguised as lunch nourishes this woman.

I hear the aide who argues with the nurse making the rounds, “Don’t tell me what to do with this woman, she is my patient, I know her and her needs come before any artificial schedule.”  This is Eucharist!

So, let the theologians and the scholars debate and deliberate.  I don’t want to live in that world anymore.  I don’t want answers…..there aren’t any real answers anyway.  My eyes have been opened to Eucharist.  Dirty, broken, and shared.  Eucharist – oh yes, we can certainly touch it, embrace it, devour it and love it.  Eucharist is not something kept in a Tabernacle, Eucharist is the Love which is.

And she didn’t even have to ask

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Do you remember that Verizon commercial?  Illustrating all the different locations where Verizon gets service?  It was catchy, clever and certainly memorable.  Sometimes I feel as though my prayer life is like a Verizon commercial!  I need to pray for ___, and ____, or and don’t forget ___.  Did I remember ____, oh and _____, and didn’t she ask for my prayers last week??????  So many people to pray for, so many needs, such a long list, I don’t want to forget anyone who asked for my prayers……yikes!  Prayer is stressful!

Really????

St. Luke tells of a story of Jesus approaching a town called Naim.  As he got near the gates he saw a man being carried out, the only son of a widowed mother.  St. Luke tells it like this, “The Lord was moved with pity upon seeing her and said to her, “Do not cry.”  Then he bid the dead man to get up and we all know the rest of the story.

Did you notice?  The woman didn’t even have to ask…..’the Lord was moved with pity’.

Forget the lists, forget the proper posture, forget the formatted words and forget the timed prayer sessions.

Lift up your eyes, open your heart to Him and let Him heal.  “The Lord was filled with compassion”….and she didn’t even have to ask!

Lenten Hope

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It’s just been a tough couple of weeks..certainly don’t want to compare myself to Job, but at my lowest moments, that’s where I’m going.  Why is it that at times the struggles seem to come from every direction?  No matter what I plan for my ‘lenten sacrifices/promises,’ God always has other plans.  And so, in the midst of all of this ‘garbage’ which I’m dealing with now, God is there.  And so, my next questions must become, “What am I to learn from this…..how can I grow from this?”

And, as I oscillate between wallowing in self-pity and holding out for the sunrise, I catch a glimpse of my daffodil bulbs poking through the winter ground.  In the midst of the snow and cold, the dead leaves and twigs, the promise of spring bursts through.  The fresh green of new life reaching up to the heavens…..now that is LENTEN HOPE!