The ten lepers

Jesus passed between the regions of Samaria and Galilee while he was traveling to Jerusalem. Ten men with leprosy approached him when he entered a village. They stood some distance away from him and called out to him, saying “Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us!”

Jesus noticed them and said “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were healed on their way.

One of them returned to Jesus when he noticed that he had been healed and gave glory to God with a loud voice. He threw himself facedown at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus said “Weren’t ten people healed? Where are the rest? Has only this foreigner returned to give glory to God?” Jesus said “Rise, and be on your way. Your faith has healed you.”

LK 17:11-19

Out of trouble comes freedom.

Genesis 50:15-21 (ASV)
15 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16 And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we are thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Many years earlier, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. He was their father’s favorite child, even though he was the youngest. He was the only son of their father’s favorite wife – the one he’d had to work seven extra years to be allowed to marry. To say the relationship was unhealthy between them is an understatement.

While he was in Egypt, having been essentially kidnapped after being left for dead, he prospered because the Lord was with him. Then, his boss’ wife wanted him, and he refused her. She set him up, and he was put in jail. He stayed there for two years.

All of this was unjust. He had done nothing to deserve any of this. Yet he didn’t complain. He kept being faithful to God.

Because of all the unfair things that had happened to him, he was in the right place to literally save all Egypt, and all of Israel. Not just his family, but all their descendants. If his family had died in that famine, Abraham’s family line would have been lost.

Everything has to happen in this order for him to be on the right place at the right time. He was there to advise the Pharoah how to save up grain so that nobody would starve. God gave him the wisdom to interpret Pharoah’s dream.

A lot of bad happened, and he doesn’t focus on it. He sees the good that came from it.

His brothers came to him, afraid that he would punish them. They made up a story that their father wanted him to forgive them, yet Joseph didn’t even need that lie. Joseph didn’t need to forgive them – he wasn’t even upset with them. He knew that what happened was meant to happen, and it was for the good.

Let’s look again at the final lines.

Genesis 50:20-21

20 And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

He knew that they meant evil for him, yet he also knew that God meant it for good. He didn’t blame them, or get angry at God for all that he had suffered. He fed them, comforted them, and spoke kindly to them.

Are we that forgiving? Are we that patient during trials and tribulations? Are we that willing to suffer a little to gain a lot?

I have a feeling that the amount of trial you go through is proportionate to the amount of blessing you are going to receive. But the only way to get that blessing is to trust in God and give thanks constantly.

We have to trust that God is in charge and is directing our path, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it is hard. I’ve found that the best way to stay in that state of trusting in God is to make the effort to always give thanks.

Create a gratitude list. Write down everything that are going well. Start with simple things. Running water is good. Hot water. A house. Food to eat. Your health. A job. Instead of thinking “Things could be better”, remember that “Things could be worse.” So be thankful for the little things.

Look at what Jesus says in Luke 16:10 –

“He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much.”

Learn prayers of thanks from your own faith tradition and from others. Write your own, or create them on the spot. Constantly giving thanks frees us from feeling oppressed or harassed. We look at all our blessings rather than our shortcomings. We see all that we have, instead of all that we think we should have.

May you be blessed this coming week through your practice of thankfulness, knowing that God is working through your difficulties.

Now is good

The trick is learning how to adapt to what actually is happening. Too many of us live in the past or live in the future. Too many people wish that things were like they used to be or dream of how things are going to be. Meanwhile they are miserable and they don’t realize that they will continue living in the now. So they will always think about how things used to be awesome when they weren’t that awesome. And they will think about how they would like things to be but they never become that. So they will always stay miserable.

We need to recalibrate our brains to accept that what we have right now is what we have right now and stop trying to force it to be something else. We are trying to force a round peg into a square hole. It just isn’t going to work. We are trying to pour a gallon of milk into a pint glass. We will always be miserable this way. We need to change our assumptions and our perceptions. We need to start seeing things the way they are instead of the way we wish they were. This way, life won’t surprise us and confound us all the time.

One way I’ve found to stay in the now is to be constantly thankful. Whatever I have, I give thanks for. It can be something like having hot running water or wireless internet. These are commonplace things where I live, but not everywhere. The danger of them being common is that I start to take them for granted. When they don’t work, I miss them a lot. So I’ve learned to be thankful for them every day. It is the practice of “counting my blessings” rather than cursing my losses. This way, when something does break or go wrong, it isn’t the center of my world. It is softened by all the many other things that work well and have gone right. This practice ripples out into everything else. Being thankful in a little means that I start to become thankful in a lot.

Poem – thanks for the hard teachers

I am thankful for all my hard teachers.

All the mean people
all the hard times
all the disappointments
all the loss
all the grief.

I’m thankful for all that I did not get
and when I got something

I am thankful,
for these are trials,
especially tailored
to teach me,
to strengthen me.

I know that I am being called
to learn how to

what cannot be heard

what cannot be seen.

Know what cannot be known.

I am thankful.

Poem – the meal of grief

Grief is a meal that must be eaten.

You cannot leave the table until it is finished.

You can cut it up
into tiny little pieces

or try to wolf it down

but either way you must eat it.

It is harder when it is cold
when you have waited so long
that your tears are the sauce.

It is impossible when it is fresh,
when it is raw.

Then your body barely has room
for breath,
much less anything else.

However it comes to you, it is your task.
No one else can do this for you.

However it comes to you
sit down
look at it
and accept it.

Give thanks for it.

For grief blesses you
and breaks you
and puts you in Communion
with God
and everyone else.

Grief is the great equalizer.
And the great humanizer.

Communion loaves and fishes

The Last Supper, the model for our Communion service, is linked to when Jesus fed the multitudes. This event happened twice.

Here, he feeds over 5,000 people, using five loaves and two fish. There were twelve baskets of leftovers. The story starts just after Jesus has heard that his cousin John the Baptist has been murdered.

Matthew 14:13-21
13 When Jesus heard about it, He withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed Him on foot from the towns. 14 As He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd, felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.
15 When evening came, the disciples approached Him and said, “This place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16 “They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”
17 “But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.
18 “Bring them here to Me,” He said. 19 Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces! 21 Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.

Shortly after that, he feeds over four thousand people, using seven loaves and a few small fish. There were seven baskets left over.

Matthew 15: 29-39
29 Moving on from there, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, 30 and large crowds came to Him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at His feet, and He healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the deformed restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they gave glory to the God of Israel.
32 Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way.”
33 The disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to fill such a crowd?”
34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them.
“Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.”
35 After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 They all ate and were filled. Then they collected the leftover pieces—seven large baskets full. 38 Now those who ate were 4,000 men, besides women and children. 39 After dismissing the crowds, He got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

What are the common elements in this story? Jesus takes what he has, little though it is. He doesn’t pray for more. He gives thanks for what he has and blesses it. Then he breaks it and distributes it.

This is what happens to us when we become part of the Body of Christ, and what we are supposed to do. It is something we receive and something we are to give.

We aren’t enough for the task. We are small and weak. We are broken. Yet God loves us, and is thankful for us. We are blessed by Jesus. And through that thankfulness and that blessing, we are enough. We are exactly what the world needs. We are food for a hungry world.

We are to take that thankfulness and that blessing and multiply it through our actions and our lives.

This is what Communion is. It feeds us, and through that, we are able to feed the world. We are able to be the healing the world needs, because we have been healed.

Morning meditation

I know many people who say “The whole day is blown” when they’ve had a bad morning. I like to think of it as the bad stuff has gotten out of the way early. It isn’t a foretaste of the way the day is going to go.

It is the same thing with your week or your year or your life. Just because it starts off bad doesn’t mean it is going to finish that way.

If you look for the bad then that is all you will see. The more energy you give it, the more it will have. There will always be bad things happening, but do you really want to give them your time and attention?

I know plenty of people who think that bad things always happen to them, that they are victims. They think there is some cosmic joke and they are the punchline, or the punching bag. The interesting thing is that the same events, or worse, happen to other people and they just let it roll off of them.

Just because you have always thought in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to continue thinking that way. Just because your parents and their parents and their parents were gloomy and doomy doesn’t mean you have to be. Attitude is not genetic. It isn’t like a tendency towards heart disease or diabetes. And even with those, a genetic weakness doesn’t mean you will get the disease. It just means you now know what to watch out for and prevent against.

How do you prevent against an unhealthy attitude? Isn’t it just like a reflex? Something bad happens and you react to it. You get hit in the knee and your leg pops up. You get hit with a subpoena and your blood pressure pops up.

Attitude is controllable. It isn’t easy. It takes a bit of unlearning. But this is true with everything. The first step is knowing that there is a way out, that you don’t have to stay in that mental space.

Then, every time you find yourself getting angry at an event, try to notice yourself doing it. Observe without judgment. This is hard, because judgment is all you had going for you for a long time. Just look at your reaction as if it is a small child having a temper tantrum. It isn’t you. It is a thing outside of you. Forgive it, because it is a childish thing. It doesn’t know better.

This will take a while to get to. Forgive yourself for not doing it right. Nobody makes a change instantly. It isn’t possible. Forgiveness is essential. And if you can’t forgive yourself all the time, forgive yourself for that too. Being thankful is helpful too. Be thankful for the bad situations, because they are teaching you how to change. They are opening you up to a new side of life. They are your way in.

Soon you will be letting things just roll off of you. They will happen, but they won’t affect you. You’ll be like a boat in the sea, moving with the waves but not toppled by them. They won’t wash over you and drown you like they used to.

Then, because you have a better control of your reaction, the event won’t have as much power as it did over you. Instead of events controlling you, you have control. Because you have control, the events don’t seem as bad.

The end of suffering.

1) Acknowledge the pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.

Further on this –
1) Acknowledge the pain.
It does us no good to ignore pain. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Ignoring pain doesn’t fix it. It prolongs it. Pain, when ignored, will often come out in very unhelpful ways. This is the source of self-abuse and addictions. Drinking, drug use, overeating, and other addictive behaviors are maladaptive techniques to deal with pain. They are a response to pain. They are a symptom. Any addiction is a repetitive, albeit misdirected, attempt to cure a problem. If you address the root cause of the problem, then the addiction will go away. Addictions just delay the cure.

Pain can be in many forms. Pain doesn’t have to be physical. Pain can result any time your needs are not being met. Grief is a form of pain. Any loss can cause pain. Not being respected, heard, or understood can cause pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.
Address the pain head on and see what the source of it is. Dig down to the root of it. Then dig down further. Often our first answer to “what is wrong” is just a surface answer. Keep going deeper. How do you feel? Who made you feel that way the first time? Is it the situation, or your reaction to it that is the cause of the pain?

Is there something you can add or subtract from your life to change the situation? Even if it will take a long time to get there, just getting started is good. Every step towards your goal is one step further away from your problem. Are you frustrated with your job? Look at transferring. Start taking classes. Do you feel that your needs aren’t being met? Is part of the problem that you aren’t telling people what your needs are? Is part of the problem that you don’t know yourself?

A lot of pain comes from settling for it. We are trained to be quiet with our suffering. This isn’t healthy. We are taught to say “I can’t do that” or “Nobody will listen to me”. Ignore those voices. They aren’t yours. They are the voices of a sick society that wants people to stay miserable. Get started, one foot in front of the other. Every step towards your goal is a step away from the problem. It is hard at first. It gets easier, but you have to keep doing it. Nobody is going to do this work for you.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.
Just like Jonah in the whale, giving thanks to God for your problems can be very healing. He gave thanks for God while in the middle of his problem. He didn’t say that he’d give thanks once he was released. He gave thanks right there and then. He was released just after that.

Sometimes the painful situation is temporary, but we just can’t see the end. Sometimes it is meant to slow us down long enough to see things from a different perspective. Giving thanks is what makes us human.

Thanks for chips and salsa

I went to lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant a few weeks ago. I’ve not been there for lunch in a while. Normally I eat lunch at work or at a buffet. I started to remember why I go to buffets.

The server was taking a long time to get to me to take my order. Then I’d have to wait for my food to be prepared. I started to get a little anxious. I don’t want to be late back to work. Well, I do want to be late, because I don’t really want to go back right away because I like luxuriating at lunch and not being ruled by the clock – but that wasn’t really an option. What I want and what I’m going to do are sometimes two different things.

So I started to freak out a little. We’ve got a new manager and I think it is important to get there on time. When is the server going to come? I started trying to spot him, or in fact any server. Somebody could take my order- it didn’t have to be my server. Things needed to start happening soon. Soon I wouldn’t have time to eat my meal in a calm fashion. Snarfed down food isn’t really great on your digestion.

And then I looked right in front of me. I have something to eat right here. Here’s the chips and salsa. It’s hardly a meal, but certainly something. I gave thanks for it, and started eating it. I started to calm down immediately. As soon as I did this, the server came and apologized for the wait and took my order. The moment I appreciated what I had, I got more.

This is the way, I’m learning. Give thanks for what you have, not what you want. Whatever you have, enjoy it and appreciate it, even if it is small. Be thankful.

Strangely, then things seem to open up – but that isn’t the point. Don’t be thankful so that you’ll get the next thing. Be thankful for the current situation, as it is, whatever it is. If you’re not happy now, you’ll certainly not be happy then. If you’re constantly wanting more, then you’ll never be content. So foster a state of constant thankfulness, and you’re already there.