Monday, May 2, 2011

God loves Osama

I am arrogant, I am weak, I am perpetually plagued by self-righteousness.  I do not claim to have anything together in my life.  And whatever good witness that I give in this world is a direct result of God's grace in my life, and NOT a result of something that I did or am doing.  It's a miracle, plain and simple.  I am crawling through this life trying to make it to heaven. Yet, I crawl confident that God will accomplish His good work in me, eventually, that one day I will wash up on His shore, naked and torn to shreds, nothing good of my own, so that He gets all the Glory and Honor of a life well lived. 

As we sort out our thoughts on the fateful demise of Osama bin Laden, let's not forget that God never rejoices when a child of His is lost.  His mercy far outweighs His wrath, and ultimately the cross and love and forgiveness wins.  Had Osama repented in his dying breath, God could (and would) forgive him. It would go against His nature to do anything else.

Now, my fallen nature wants, so bad, to go off right now on the behavior that I saw displayed last night on social networks by professed Christians, but I'm not.  I could speak about how wrong on so many levels, it is for us to say in any way that Blessed John Paul II intercession had anything to do with the death of a man (see fall of communism), but I'm not.  I will muster up some self-control and simply offer some biblical principles that I myself am adopting.

First, before we, as Christians, go pointing fingers and sharing our opinions, I believe it wise to take a hard look at ourselves and whole-heartedly adopt whatever virtue that we believe is lacking in others. Let's leave the hating to non-believers, let's love first.  Secondly, I believe that we should spend at least the same amount of time in prayer as we do sharing our opinions on social networks or blogs.  Prayers for our culture, our nation, our soldiers, our own families can never be underestimated.  Remember that God desires us more than he desires to use us.  Prayer might not change situations in our world, but it always changes the one's who are praying.

Lastly, let's not forget that God is accomplishing His plan with or without us.  His Son will eventually reign over all that stood against good.  Let's choose today to open ourselves to His plans, join together in an authentic brand of Christianity that loves neighbor and enemies alike, and watch as His name and fame make headlines.

I love you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross

At Franciscan we always prayed these scriptures with the Friars from noon until 3pm. I will be praying them with my family, along with composer Franz Josef Hayden's Seven Last Words in the background.

Here is a brief reflection you can do at home. I like these because they are fully customizable to your time and your state in life.  For example, you can insert some wrote prayers or some brief examen in between. Good Friday, everybody.

The Seven Last Words of Christ

1. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."  Luke 23:34

When the crucifixion procession reached Golgotha, Jesus was crucified along with two criminals.  The Roman soldiers divided up his clothing by casting lots.  "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Son of God, the Chosen One".

2. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Luke 23:43

One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus said: "Aren't you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!"  Another rebuked the first one: "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."

3. "Woman, behold, your son!"."Behold, your Mother!"  John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw  his Mother and one of his disciples standing near, he said to his Mother: "Woman, behold, your son!".  Then he said to the disciple: "Behold, your Mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

4. "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"   Mark 15:34

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"  When some of the people standing around the cross heard this they said: "He's calling Elijah."  Some believe that at that moment Jesus took on himself the sins of the world and was for the first time truly separated from the Father.

5. After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the scripture, "I thirst."  John 19:28

The verse says, that he said "that the scripture might be fulfilled."  In verse 15 we read: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws."

6. "It is finished."  John 19:30

The prophecies had been fulfilled.  Everything was in order.  The plan was complete.

7. "Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#11 Our kingdoms

Dang it's getting crazy out there. 

Just take a look at the world around us. Tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, radiation, poverty, governments, tyrants, racism, abortion.  Things can look pretty grim. 

With all of this around us, I think it's hard sometimes for me to remember that God is not sitting on His throne, with forehead sweat, worrying about whether or not things are gonna work out.  The truth is, He's fine. He's more than fine, He is absolutely confident and certain that one day His Son, Jesus Christ, will literally destroy everything on earth that ever stood against Him, including death. And you and I will enter into a new heavens and new earth.  Period.  That's the story that God is accomplishing. 

He started this thing. He's running this thing. He's gonna finish this thing. It's my job to trust and merge into what He's doing. 

Happy Triduum everyone. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#10 Accountability

The other night, as I was sitting on my back porch enjoying a glass of great craft beer, I got this text from one of my greatest friends.

What happened to your blog? 

In an instant my world was filled with embarrassment, shame, and a intense sense of urgency to be better at life in general.  Honestly, I didn't even know this friend of mine had ever even read it.  And then the most dreadful thought occurred to me, what if I was refusing to accomplish the task that God had for me?

Accountability is a strange thing.  Like worship, like service, like community, it's not really something that we "do", it's more like something that happens "on accident".  To be a part of an accountability group is not the same as being accountable.  To be accountable is to trust another, and to follow through with what they are suggesting.

See, I really trust this friend, and when he says something that calls me to greatness, I go for it.  Not because this is something that I've signed up for, but because I know that he loves me, and he wants me to be who God has asked me to be.  His comments propel me to change and be changed by the grace that God is offering.

Do you have someone in your life?

Monday, September 13, 2010

#9 time

I love home improvement. Don't have any money, but I still like to peruse the aisles of my local hardware store and dream.  Until I'm debt free, I'll have to be satisfied with leaving the store with things to repair my aging house.  For some reason, last weekend, a lot of my doors needed repair. All in one day, I installed a recently repaired shower door, replaced the door knob on our back door and stopped it from sticking, and finally put a new latch on the outside gate.  And even though the kitchen countertops were on my mind the entire time, it felt so good to get out there and sweat, create (kind of), and take time with my "little helpers".

If you know me, or have been reading for a while, you'll know that most of what I learn about God the Father comes from my life experiences as a daddy.

At one point on Saturday, Avila, who's 2, told me that she wanted to help me.  Thinking back and knowing who cool it is when my kids are a part of my ordinary projects, see #5 God Can , I quickly agreed to her request.  I was headed to the garage to find some screws and some small washers.  She stood patiently next to me at my work bench while I searched through a couple disorganized bins of random hardware.  I knew that if I didn't involve her immediately, she was going to get bored and take off, so I handed her a couple of washers.  She happily took them in her little hand and smiled.  However, it wasn't 30 seconds, while I searched for the right size screws, that she was handing the washers back to me, stating "I don't want to help you anymore", and skipping off to her sandbox.  Bummer!

Instantly, as I'm listening for the Father's voice in all of this, I'm reminded of the impatience within my own heart surrounding the Father and His plan, His work, His projects.  I find myself skipping away all the time!  When will you heal this nation God? When will you make these paths straight?  When will I see your justice?  I feel just like Avila did, holding a couple of pieces to the puzzle, bored out of my mind, while my Father gathers the remaining parts to accomplish the project.

I'm reminded again that God knows what He is doing.  He doesn't need our help, He desires it.  But most of all He desires our trust in His plan.  Even though it seems like it is "taking forever!" His timing is perfect in all things big and small.  He's God, He could do it instantly at any moment.  However, in that case, what would become of our trust, our faith, our time abiding in the Father?

I'm learning that patience is not the standing-in-line, bored, tapping my foot, kind of waiting.  Patience is standing in awe of God's movements, works and plan, all the while knowing that He's got it taken care of, and that you are a part of it all...

Lord, help me to abide, to trust, to know your ways are correct ALL of the time. Amen.

Do you find yourself "waiting" on God and becoming impatient at times?  What are the things in your world that you have a hard time seeing God's plan in?  In what ways have you given up on God's plan, and tried to do it by yourself or simply skipped away?

Monday, August 16, 2010

#8 Deeds?

I'm obsessed with perfection.  This morning I had my whole family do a "practice run" of our new school morning routine, complete with timers so that we could somehow create that chaos that will inevitably ensue each morning.  Once we were all fed, dressed and prayed up, they lined up and walked to the van at the appropriate time, giving me some satisfaction in knowing that we can do this.

School starts in a week...

It's my opinion that the rich young man in the Gospels (Matt 19:16-22) approaches Jesus in the same way. He wants to make sure that he is doing absolutely everything he can to secure his own perfection and ultimately his eternal happiness.  However, you get the sense that Jesus in His mercy is required to give him a task, "go sell all that you possess", so that the young man has something tangible to work toward.  As I continue to struggle into this intimacy with God, I have found that most of the time it is not about the deeds I'm performing, but about the disposition of my heart.

"Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" has the right intent, but it is the wrong question to ask.  Jesus answers the question, but only because the young man wasn't ready to hear the whole truth, "get rid of everything else you love and love me."

Lord, as you perfect me, teach me how to love you more than all my stuff, my good deeds, my identity, my religion, my work, my family, my dreams.  Help me to see that there is only one deed that you ask of me, to fall more madly in love with you everyday.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

#7 who is my neighbor?

Last night, Cana and I went on a date. We clipped some coupons from our trusty Entertainment book, got a babysitter, and set off to go watch the remake of Robinhood (which, by the way, was pretty good).  On the way to the theatre, it started raining... really hard.  I for one, was not looking forward to getting out of the car, for I was looking pretty fly with my hair all did. Cana was wearing a sleeveless dress and was already feeling cold.  We stopped by the convenience store around the corner from the theatre, to get some candy and water to put in Cana's purse (is that bad? doesn't everyone do that?).  We hurried out of the car, so as to not get too wet.  As we approached the glass doors of the store, there came another man, shirtless, with tattoos, sandals with wet socks on.  My first reaction, was to go into defensive mode. Can I take this guy if he intends to hurt my wife?  Then, as my infantile stages of "enemy-love" self rose to the top of my psyche, I decided that I would open the door for the man, looking him in the eye with a smile, having him follow my wife in, even though it made me a little nervous.  He just gave me a head jerk upward "'sup" and a smile, I'm was guessing, that was his way of saying thanks.
Cana chose skittles as her poison, and I, Reese's Pieces.  We added a bottle of water and approached the counter.  The shirtless man had a six pack of tall boys set there and was pointing out his brand of cigarettes to the cashier.  We moved to the second attendant, only to find out that all the credit card machines were down due to the thunderstorm.  I was pretty irritated, irritated because I couldn't buy my roundish bagged sugar craving.  Then from our left, the shirtless man held out cash and said in an excited voice "I got it."  "What do you mean? No." I responded, which was actually more polite than it was true. For, I knew exactly what he meant.  He responded "you're good, you're good, just if you see someone else in need tonight, do the same." I was taken aback, but you know... I wasn't surprised.  A shirtless tattooed man paid for our candy, and I really wasn't surprised.
When Jesus was asked "who is your neighbor?", He really didn't answer the question, but He told a story.  He told the story of the good samaritan.  A guy who the Jewish people where supposed to hate and supposed to be afraid of.  When asked "who is your neighbor?", Jesus basically answered "the person that you are inclined to hate or be afraid of".
I've been trying to really practice enemy love and neighbor love for a couple of years now, and the more I pray for those who want to do me or my family harm and the more I love those that I am actually inclined to dislike, these characters at convenience stores and folks who smell badly or look dangerous aren't as repulsive anymore.  I'm pretty sure I'm figuring out slowly that Christ really is everywhere, waiting to be treated with dignity.  Not just in Haiti, or the poor, but everywhere.  You see, I could speculate where this man got his cash. Or wonder if my skittles were bought with dope dealing money or worse.  I could think about where tattoo man was going to party that night and with whom, what his family was like, how he grew up, what car he drove, and whether or not he received government aid for housing or food.  Or I could see him as a neighbor, a human that is just as vulnerable to sin and hell, and just as close to forgiveness and salvation as I am.
The truth is, by God's goodness, Cana and I are becoming more and more convinced that people are people whatever their situation.  They need love and dignity more than they need fixing or aid.  To accept love from him, in the form of candy, gave him a confirmation of his dignity.  It's in giving we receive.  And I guess in a way, it's in receiving that we give... hmm...
In the end, I gave the shirtless guy a hug. Yes, I slapped his wet sweaty back with my open palms and gave him a true bro hug, just as I would give one of my own brothers.  And I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty disgusting.  But, I'm pretty sure not doing so would have been even more repulsive.  I got some candy and moreover I got a lesson from Jesus.  Thank God for shirtless tattooed man.