Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Thoughts on fear

What's inside a black hole?

Scientists have discovered that in photographing a black hole, which we can now do, it is possible to glimpse the entire universe bent into bands around it. Here on our tiny little planet earth, a black hole of despair has gripped our hearts in the form of a novel virus that is breaking out all over the world, and no one has any immunity against it. Yet around this black hole are bands of hope and glimpses of the kingdom of God that is greater than death and disease. 

There is plenty of doom and gloom in the prognosis each day as cases and deaths mount. How long will this last? We don't know. How bad will it get? We don't know that either, except that it's already pretty bad. So the big question is, "What do we do with the fear?"

Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear performs a useful function. If you have a fear of heights, it should make you step away from the edge of the Grand Canyon if you should get too close. It would also keep you from doing something foolish like climbing over the protective railing just to see how close to the edge you could get. 

In the same way, fear of contracting the coronavirus should keep us all following the suggested guidelines like social distancing and staying home except for absolutely essential trips outside the house. Maintaining safe practices is a way of not only protecting ourselves, but of caring for others so that we don't become an unknowing carrier.

So when is fear not a good thing? When it rules you. When it overwhelms your ability to think rationally. When it freezes you. Fear is not good when it replaces our faith. Guard your heart so that fear is never bigger than faith. Peter says to not be frightened, "but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." (1 Peter 3:15) As long as Jesus fills our hearts, we will not be overcome with fear. Fear and Christ cannot fill the same heart because, "Perfect love casts out all fear." (1 John 4:18)

So fear is good in its proper place as a means of being safe and caring for others. Just don't let it rule your heart. And when it threatens to, turn your thoughts to Jesus. Worship Him. Set Him apart in your heart so there is no one and nothing greater than Him. Let Him fill your all in all and quiet your heart. He is your Lord and King. He will never leave you or forsake you. You are with Him now, and you will be with Him forever - never to be separated.

So what is the worst that could happen to you or me in this pandemic? We could get sick and die. So? Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Sounds like it's Christ either way. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

John Fischer

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Thoughts on sin

JOHN 7:40-53
Friends, we see in today’s Gospel how Jesus’ preaching caused 
division. Some hearers believed him, but others wanted to arrest 

The life, preaching, and mission of Jesus are predicated upon the assumption that all is not well with us, that we stand in need of a renovation of vision, attitude, and behavior. A few decades ago 
the book I’m OK—You’re OK appeared. Its title, and the attitude 
that it embodies, are inimical to Christianity.

The fact of sin is so often overlooked today. Look, no one has ever savored being accused of sin, but especially in our culture now 
there is an allergy to admitting personal fault.

A salvation religion makes no sense if all is basically fine with us, 
if all we need is a little sprucing up around the edges. Christian 
saints are those who can bear the awful revelation that sin is not 
simply an abstraction or something that other people wrestle with, 
but a power that lurks and works in them.

When we lose sight of sin, we lose sight of Christianity, which is a salvation religion.

Reflect: Is all basically fine with you, or do you personally need a

Bishop Robert Barron

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Thoughts on spring

You Are a Spring of Eternal Life
In the midst of Lent I am made aware that Easter is coming again: the days are becoming longer, the snow is withdrawing, the sun is bringing new warmth, and a bird is singing. Yesterday, during the night prayers, a cat was crying! Indeed, spring announces itself. And tonight, O Lord, I heard you speak to the Samaritan woman. You said: “Anyone who drinks the water that I shall give you will never be thirsty again; the water that I shall give you will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.” What words! They are worth many hours, days, and weeks of reflection. I will carry them with me in my preparation for Easter. The water that you give turns into a spring. Therefore, I do not have to be stingy with your gift, O Lord. I can freely let the water spring from my center and let anyone who desires drink from it. Perhaps I will even see this spring myself when others come to it to quench their thirst.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thoughts on wisdom

The Bible tells the story of Job, a man who loved and served God. But he lost almost everything—his wealth, health, and children—in the span of one day.

Job’s story shows us how to worship even when we’re wounded. Even in the worst times, we can worship God by invoking his wisdom and strength.

Soon after Job had lost it all, he was on the ground in agony, grieving his losses and suffering physically from illness.

Three of Job’s friends showed up and eventually started giving advice. A lot of it wasn’t very helpful, but one friend, Eliphaz, told him, “If I were you, I would call on God and bring my problem before him” (Job 5:8 NCV).
Eliphaz is telling Job to invoke God’s help. What does it mean to “invoke”? It means to appeal to someone greater than yourself for a special act, power, or privilege.

That was good advice. When you’re confused, angry, doubting, and wounded, don’t turn away from God. Instead, turn toward him because he’s the only one who has the power to really comfort you.

Once when Jesus was talking to a crowd, he was telling the people what changes they would have to make in their lives in order to follow him. But they didn’t want any demands on their lives, so they started walking away.
John 6:67-68 says Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” One of the men, Peter, said, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (CEB).

If you turn away from God in pain, where will you go? No one else can help you like he can. So instead of turning away from him, invoke his strength and wisdom.

The Bible says, “True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for” (Job 12:13 The Message).

Following Jesus doesn’t exempt you from life’s problems. But it does mean God’s wisdom and strength are available to you. Turn to him, and he’ll show you what to do and give you the power to do it.

Rick Warren

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Prayer to Face COVID-19 with Hope and Solidarity

Dear God,

In this time of uncertainty and fear, help us be love, mercy, and peace for ourselves and for others as we face coronavirus in the United States and around the world.

Help us hold close in our hearts those who have died, and their loved ones who mourn them.
Those who are sick or are trying to seek medical care.
Those who don’t have paid sick leave, benefits, or job security.
Those whose schools have closed and don’t have access to food, safe homes, or technology.
Those who can’t travel to be with loved ones who are ill or dying.
Those who are facing discrimination and harassment because of their ethnicity.
Those who are struggling with loneliness during this time of social isolation.
Those who are frightened and losing hope.

Help us find joy, however small it seems.
Help us remain hopeful.
Help us remember that “All shall be well, for there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.”


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Thoughts on silence

A good new practice to highlight, even at this midway point in the Lenten period, is silence. Silence is the greatest of teachers. This is increasingly true in our highly distracted culture. Distraction is unnecessary noise. If our natural environment lacks silence, how will we ever understand what it is? We will know we have lost something, but will have no word for what it is. Silence will just mean that the audio doesn’t work. So we must speak about silence, communicating what it is until the penny drops into the bottomless well. Silence heals, refreshes, energizes, inspires, sharpens, clarifies. It simplifies. It is the medium of truth. And it is the font of the pure single Word that both perfectly communicates it and leads back to it. If we consciously turn off the TV or close the computer, restrain unnecessary speech, avoid gazing at advertising posters, look people lovingly in the eye, we are enhancing the same direct work of silence that we return to meeting in our meditation. And we are making the world a more silent and awakened place.
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Thoughts on hope


A person with hope does not get tangled up with concerns for how his wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, his prayer is not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it. His prayer might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith is the giver of all good things....For the prayer of hope it is essential that there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded, only that you expect everything from the other without binding him. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the other to make his loving promise come true, even though you never know when, where or how this might happen.

Henri Nouwen

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Thoughts on COVID-19

What an interesting time we live in. Just a few weeks ago, Corona was a bottle of beer with a slice of lime peeking out of it, and I would have guessed COVID-19 was a distant planet just discovered that might support life. Now it's a virus that is threatening life for some, and totally altering life for everybody else.

For days I tried to determine whether I should go attend spring training games in Arizona with the current scare going on, and then the day before I am scheduled to leave they up and cancel all the games. So at least I don't have to make the decision, but I'm not sure I like that. They took my option away. Something about that doesn't seem right. Something in me wants to go anyway, just to spite. Walk over to training camp in the morning and see what the players and coaches are doing. They're all going to be there, I bet. They're going to be doing something. They probably won't let me near any of the players, but I know of a couple vantage points where you can look down on the whole training facility. I could at least see professional ballplayers in red spring training jerseys swinging bats and chasing balls.

These are the worst of times but they could also be the best of times. These are times that force us out of our routines and who knows what we might come up with then?

John Fischer

Friday, March 13, 2020

Thoughts on worrying

When you’re facing tough times, worry is a natural human response. But, instead of worrying, God wants you to worship. One way you can worship God is by believing who he is and what he can do.

In the book of 2 Chronicles, King Jehoshaphat and Israel found themselves in a tough spot. Three enemy nations were on their way to make war against them.

Though he was afraid, the king’s first response was to gather his people to pray. He stood before the whole nation and prayed aloud. His prayer is a great model to show you how to pray when you feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

First, when you pray during a stressful time, remind yourself of who God is. Focus on his strength, character, and power. God can handle anything, including whatever you’re facing right now.

In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says, “With God everything is possible” (NLT).

King Jehoshaphat knew this is true. He reminded himself of it as he prayed, “Are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6 NIV).

The king’s enemy was coming against him. But he chose to take his eyes off the problem and instead put his eyes on God’s strength and power. He reminded himself of who God is.

After you remember who God is, remind yourself of what he has done. Remember when God has helped other people and when he has helped you. Recalling those things will give you confidence that God will handle whatever you are facing.

When King Jehoshaphat prays, “Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel?” (2 Chronicles 20:7 NIV), he’s remembering when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
Jehoshaphat reminded himself of when God had helped Israel drive out enemies before. That gave him confidence that God will do it again.

What are you worrying about today? Instead of worrying, spend some time in prayer, remembering who God is and what he has done. Believe he can handle whatever you’re facing.

Rick Warren

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Thoughts on serving

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many It’s amazing how the Church can repeat these words of Jesus from a place of hierarchy and privilege. The only thing that exonerates the Church is the presence of people within the system who are well and painfully aware of this inconsistency. The spirit of service and the true humility, which is the mystical–moral core of the Gospel, is inevitably linked to the knowledge of mortality. In meditation as well as in the lessons of life, mortality and immortality totally invert the power structures that Jesus is exposing. If you haven’t yet seen this aspect of Lent, I hope you do soon.
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Thoughts on meditation

We tend to diverge from the truth the more we analyze, complicate and define. We usually speak too much about things we don’t understand but much less about things whose truth we really feel. This is why meditation is so economical, cutting out the waste of thoughts and words in the work of silence and getting directly to the simple end. In the Transfiguration story, Peter (typically) got it wrong by talking, but without knowing what he was saying because “they were terrified.” Why does the truth—and the simplicity that is the medium of truth—scare us so much? Why is silence (the letting go of thoughts) so challenging? Why do the simple disciplines of Lent that we started recently often seem too much? Is it because we find it too simple to harmonize the means and the ends in a way that brings us to ourselves in the radiant glory of the present?
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Friday, March 6, 2020

Thoughts on religion

The Dalai Lama has said: “My simple religion is kindness. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” This might sound as if religion as a system of practices, rituals and beliefs has been or could be made redundant. If only. Humanity tried twice in the twentieth century and failed disastrously, as much so as if it had tried to abolish art or science. In the twenty-first century we have to renew religion, not abolish it. But one day in the holy city (as the book of Revelation says), there will indeed be no temple “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). Until that happy day we have to listen to Jesus who speaks in tune with all religious leaders worth listening to; don’t enter a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue unless you are prepared to love your enemies.
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Thoughts on change

To change a small thing makes some people feel insecure about many things and even sends warning signals down deep into the caverns where their fear of death lurks. When it comes to our character or personality, as shaped by years of experience, it seems even more difficult to effect change. We have all kinds of means to resist changing our mind—denial, aggression, and procrastination being among the favorites. To change or repent means not only the content of our beliefs and ideas, but the actual mode of perception by which consciousness operates. Saying a mantra in our daily Lenten practice tricks us out of these resistances and fears by first affecting the quality of awareness through seeing what is really there. Then behavior changes. Then thoughts. Radical change without force. Radical simplicity with unbounded love, in daily increments. The meaning of repentance.
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Monday, March 2, 2020

Thoughts on compassion

Compassion is more than behavior. It is the way that things are done, the fundamental current through which action flows toward self and others. And the source of compassion is not less than the true self, that irreducible “I” in which the ego has been fully absorbed and therefore is invisible and casts no shadow. When action flows from this non-geographical point of pure identity, it is unconcerned about what it looks like and even about whether it is good or bad in the eyes of others. Compassion is pure action issuing from purity of heart. It is carried along toward others by a force of generosity that is too complete, and too fulfilling for it to worry about what it is going to get in return. We have to learn and relearn to stay centered and be simple. We have to remember when we forget. 
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Thoughts on Jesus

Jesus at the Center
If you were to ask me point-blank: “What does it mean to you to live spiritually?” I would have to reply: “Living with Jesus at the center.” . . . When I look back over the last thirty years of my life, I can say that, for me, the person of Jesus has come to be more and more important. Specifically, this means that what matters increasingly is getting to know Jesus and living in solidarity with him.

Henri Nouwen