Some good things from the current US situation.

A friend posted about how the current President gets so upset about what he thinks of as “fake” news.”  I think it is important to state that I didn’t vote for him or Clinton – I voted a different party. That is the change we really need – to get past this divisive mentality embodied in the two-party system.  It sets up a no-win situation, where there is always a “loser”.  But I’m starting to see some good out of what has happened because people are starting to wake up and realize that the government cannot take care of them.  People are taking matters into their own hands in a healthy and healing way.

Here was my response to him –

“It all seems fake to him because he’s being fed lies by his cronies.   There is evidence that he not only does not, but cannot read.  This means he is incapable of getting first-hand information.  It is all pre-digested for him.   I no longer think of him as evil.  Just very sad and mislead.   Pray for him.”

One of his friends (unknown to me) was freaked out that I suggested we pray for him, saying that we all needed to be prayed for instead.  I replied that Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.

While meditating on this, I read the Catholic readings for the day, and all three that were for the afternoon spoke to this.

Leviticus 19:17-18

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Another friend shared this, and there is a lot of truth to it. This is copied from a writer named Susan Keller. I have edited out the snarky bits.  What is left shows how much people are waking up.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:

– Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
– Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to Google.
– Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
– The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
– Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
– Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
– Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.                                                                                                                                                                     – Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.

– White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead.
– “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
– Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
– As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.

– Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now popular.

– Massive cleanup of Facebook friend lists.

– People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration.

– More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important.”

 

My take is that the best thing we can do is to pay attention to what is going on and be active. Not reactive – because to react is to let “them” set the pace.  Don’t let them rule the dance.  Look for what is broken, who is hurting.  Go help them.  We’ve long said that the government is too involved in our lives.  This is a great opportunity to take control back.  Instead of the government taking care of the sick, elderly, poor, homeless – we need to do this, through churches and other civic organizations.  Don’t worry about government funding for Planned Parenthood – make it private.  Then there will no longer be a debate from some that their money is going to something they don’t agree with. We need to decentralize everything.

Perhaps the nomination to be the Secretary of Education of a person who has nothing to do with public education is a good thing.  We have a broken system, with children who are not able to get a job or even think on their own.  Currently, children learn to read well enough to memorize test answers.  This leaves them unprepared for adult life. Parents who can afford to send their children to private schools because they are seen as better.  So why not take the template of the private schools and put it on the public one?  Now – and this is critical – it must not be religious-based (unless it covers all faiths).

Better than that – let’s start reading again.  I don’t mean current fiction.  I mean non-fiction, things that make us think.  We’ve spent too long escaping life and not facing it.  We’ve spent too long asleep.  Go to your local library and support it.  Get together with people and discuss what you are learning.

Worried about your health-care?  Go for a walk or to the gym.  Eat the healthiest food you can.  Learn to cook.

This entire debacle has caused us to stop thinking of the government as our savior.  This is a good thing.

——————–

 

(All Bible verses are HCSB)

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Love your enemies. Go the second mile.

“You’ve been taught the message ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you. Bless anyone who curses you and ask for God’s blessing for those who mistreat you.

The Law of Moses says ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I’m telling you something deeper – don’t retaliate against someone who harms you. Instead, if someone slaps you on your cheek, turn and offer him the other one. If someone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone demands that you carry a heavy burden for a mile – carry it two miles instead.

If someone asks you for anything, give them whatever they ask for. If someone wants to borrow something, let them have it. Even if they take your possessions away, don’t ask to get them back.

How does it help you if you are nice only to the people who are nice to you? Even sinful people can do that.

How does it help you if you are welcoming only to people who are nice to you? If you welcome only your friends, how are you doing anything different than everyone else? Even people who don’t believe in God do that.

How are you to be seen as different if you lend only to people who you expect to get something from? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. Instead, love your enemies, do what is right, and lend what you have, expecting nothing in return. Treat others the same way that you like to be treated.

By doing this you will reveal yourself to be children of your Father in heaven. God makes the sun shine on those who are evil as well as those are good, and God makes rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. He is compassionate to those who are ungrateful and evil. Your goal is to be perfect and merciful, just like God is perfect and merciful.”

MT 5:38-48, LK 6:27-36

Healing your enemies

We are told to love our enemies. Truly, they need it the most. But also, we need it. We need to pray for those who have harmed us. We need to pray that they receive the healing of Jesus. We need to pray they will be transformed from being people who hurt into people who help.

There are several precedents for people who were healed without asking for it or without even being near Jesus. When you are praying for someone who has harmed you, remember these stories. They are in the Bible as signs to you that Jesus’ power and healing can be done at any distance and without the knowledge or intent of the person who needs the healing. The people who need to be healed most are often the last to admit it. You are blessing them by asking Jesus for their healing.

Let us look at some stories. Here is the one of the Canaanite woman and her daughter. Her daughter was possessed by a demon (mental illness?) and certainly didn’t ask for help. She wasn’t even there – but Jesus’ power of healing knows no boundaries or limitations. This story is especially important to me because it indicates that we should constantly try – we shouldn’t give up. Even if it seems like our prayers aren’t being answered, we should persist.

Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went out thence, and withdrew into the parts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanitish woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a demon. 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24 But he answered and said, I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 But she came and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 And he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs. 27 But she said, Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was healed from that hour.

It was the woman’s faith in Jesus’ ability to heal her daughter that healed her. Your faith in Jesus can do the same to heal the broken people in your life. In fact, those broken people might just be in your life for that very reason. You might be the very one to bring them to the love of Christ.

Here’s another story of Jesus healing a person at a distance. The person might not have even known that healing was being requested of them. Interestingly enough, the supplicant was also not Jewish, but believed in Jesus’ power.

Matthew 8:5-13
5 And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And he saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 And when Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And the servant was healed in that hour.

In this story too, the faith of the supplicant is what tipped the scales. In this story too, Jesus is surprised by their faith. You too have that ability. You too have the power to transform someone who isn’t well by your faith. Sometimes, just simply knowing that there is a chance for healing is enough to give us hope. That little spark can build into a flame. Just a little faith can do a lot.

Matthew 17:20
20 And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Don’t doubt, and don’t give up.

Luke 11:9-13
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Here’s a story of a healing where nobody asked for healing but it happened anyway. Jesus can fix even the worst situations. Even when all seems lost, there is hope.

Luke 7:11-15
11 And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went to a city called Nain; and his disciples went with him, and a great multitude. 12 Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, there was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came nigh and touched the bier: and the bearers stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.

So bring the person to Jesus in your heart and in your prayers. Ask Jesus to heal them of their sickness. Sickness isn’t just physical. Sickness can be anything that deviates from being whole. Anger, jealousy, and fear are sicknesses. Guilt, shame, and addictions are sicknesses. All sickness can be healed by Jesus. We are called to ask for that healing, through faith.

(All Bible translations are American Standard Version – public domain)

It rains on the just and the unjust alike.

Instead of saying “Why does this keep happening to me”, turn it outward. “This” keeps happening to everybody. “This” is life, and it is normal.

Jesus tells us that “It rains on the just and the unjust alike” in Matthew 5. More later on that.

Bad things don’t just happen to bad people. They happen to everybody.

So how do you deal with it?

Thankfulness is a good start. Look at Jonah, praising God while in the belly of the whale.

Look at David, dancing and praising God, even after his son died.

Look at Job, saying that who was he to get angry at God for sending bad things and not to remember that God sends good things too.

Start a gratitude list. Look at the things that you like. Give them your energy, not the bad things. Look at all you have, not what you are missing.

Another idea is to not see things as “good” or “bad”. They just are what they are. The more you resist, the more you fight, the harder life will be. The more you define situations as “bad”, the more resistance you will give them.

Don’t give your energy to the wrong things

Pity parties only are parties of one.

While it is important to acknowledge pain and loss and occasionally say “This sucks!”, it is also important not to stay in that space.

Do what you can to help yourself. Start eating better. Go for a walk.
Feeling bad tends to make us close up and go inwards. That is the worst thing because it is self perpetuating.

Turn your energy outwards.

Go help out people who are worse off than you, not only so you get a sense of perspective, but also because the very action of helping others helps you.

Here’s the full verse of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Don’t run away from the situation. Give it love.

Thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer.

With the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was trying to give us a model of how to pray. It is a recipe, a framework, a blueprint. We aren’t supposed to repeat these words mindlessly. We are to use them as an example and make them our own.

Here’s the version I was taught. There are slightly different versions. Some don’t include the “trespasses” part. Some add “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.” at the end.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

Really, how many people even talk like this today? Jesus sure didn’t. In spite of what some fundamentalists would believe, Jesus didn’t speak English. And Jesus certainly wouldn’t use King James English in the 21st century. Jesus is all about getting down to our level. Jesus talks like how the people he’s with talk.

How many of us even really understand these words? Who knows what “hallowed” means? How many of us just say these words like they are a magic formula? We have them memorized and we say them and we are done. The words have passed through our lips but not through our minds or hearts.

These words of Jesus are a pattern, not a formula. They provide us a framework. They give us topics to cover. If you cover these basic topics, you’ll have prayed in a good way. Jesus isn’t about people mindlessly muttering words to God. Jesus tells us to pray from our hearts.

God made each one of us a little different, and God wants to hear from each one of us in our own special way. That is way we were made different. For us to pray the same prayer all the time makes no sense.

So what is Jesus saying in this prayer? What is Jesus telling us to do?

Perhaps it is something as simple as this:

Dear God/ Creator/ Divine Source of all that is, You are the master of everything and you are the Lord. (Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.)

Help me to remember that You are always in charge, and You know what is going on better than I do. Help me remember that I don’t have to try to control everything – that you’ve got it all figured out. (Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.)

Thank you for taking care of my physical needs, not just food but clothing and a place to live. Thank you for making sure that I have what I need. (Give us this day our daily bread,)

Help me to remember to always forgive other people, because You have already forgiven me. Help me to hold no grudges. (and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,)

I ask that you not test me by tempting me with things that are bad for me. (and lead us not into temptation,)

Please protect me and keep me safe. (deliver us from evil.)

Amen.

You can formulate it along this pattern. Think about each phrase as if you are seeing it for the first time. Think about each word. Look each one up – not just the ones you aren’t familiar with. What do they mean to you? They will mean something different to you ten years from now.

Some thoughts on this –

The “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever” part is really a repeat of the “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” part. They both refer to the fact that God is in charge. God is the creator and ruler of everything. God is the beginning and the end and everything in between. God has the master plan. We keep thinking we are in charge, and it is up to us to make sure everything gets done. This is a very unhealthy way to think. So perhaps it is good to refer to this twice in this prayer. It is the key to it all.

In the “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” part, we need to look at the word “as” – it means “in the same way, or like” but it also means “at the same time” Our mistakes are forgiven when we forgive others their mistakes. It isn’t up to us to judge. We have to let it go and let God be in charge. Jesus came to teach peace and forgiveness. This is something that comes from God to us, but it is also supposed to be something that we extend out to everyone. Consider it trickle-down forgiveness, but the trickle is more like a waterfall.

In the “lead us not into temptation” part, I feel that is there because God often tests us to strengthen us. God is like a personal trainer, and wants us to grow strong. We have to be tested for this to happen. Perhaps part of this is also that we are asking that we see that whatever tests do come our way we see as being from God. Then we will have the strength to endure them.

If we live an easy life then we won’t ever get to test our faith. It is easy to “love your neighbor” if your neighbor is kind – it is much harder when your neighbor is a jerk. But it is exactly that kind of neighbor that we are here to be kind to. I also think Jesus put in the “lead us not into temptation” line because God forgets how hard it is to be human.

God gave us all these rules to follow. And we kept breaking them. God gave us more rules, and we still didn’t get it right. So God came down in human form, and finally understood why we couldn’t get the rules right. God finally understood how hard it is to be human because God finally saw what it was like from our perspective.

It is like a professional race car driver trying to give driving instructions to someone who has an antique VW van to drive. The professional is going to keep getting frustrated – why can’t this person get it? It is easy. Then, when the driver finally gets into the old, clunky, VW van with its impossible stick shift and heater that is always on, even in the middle of summer, and the rusted out floorboards, the driver will finally get a clue as to what is going on.

It is as if God says after all that “Of course you can’t do it the way I’ve been telling you. I see now. Here, let me break it down to just two rules. Love Me, and love your neighbor.”

And really, it is just one rule. Love.

Sometimes that is the hardest thing ever.

Love your enemies.

What is the Christian response to acts of terrorism? In short, love.
This is the most paradoxical thing. Yet we cannot fight fire with fire.

We are told to love our enemies.

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We are told to overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:14

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

Romans 12:17-21

“17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[g] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We are told to turn the other cheek.

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

We are told to love our neighbors (which is everybody).

Mark 12:28-31

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

When we don’t know what to do or say in a difficult situation, we are told to pray for the right words, and advised that the Holy Spirit will give them to us. We are warned that it isn’t easy to be a follower of Jesus.

Matthew 10:16-22

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

These are hard things to do, especially in a world that seeks retaliation and revenge. We are called to be a fixing to the evil of the world. We are called to be the cure to the disease of sin and hate and separation. We are called to build bridges, not walls. We are called to love. If loving your enemy is hard, remember to invite Jesus into it. Ask him to be with you in that feeling, to help you understand what you are feeling, to help transform it into love.

(All verses are from the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible.)