A Real Surprise!

My last blog talked about a similarity between two words and I never expected to write another like that one. I have to say I had a most relaxing and peaceful vacation. I recommend time-out for everyone. When I returned I knew I had to update my thoughts and as I thought about some of the characters in the New Testament one of my favorites came to mind. St. Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. The word DISCIPLES is interchangeable with apostles. There is not much known about him from the Bible. He might have been a twin because the word for twin is used as an explanation for who he was. The word for twin could also mean DOUBTER and Thomas was very upset when the man in which he put all his belief died and was buried. Easter evening all the followers, about 120 in all, were locked in a room for fear they would be the next to be killed because they believed in this man, Jesus.
Guess who was not present? You guessed it. and this man who had been executed for doing good came through closed doors and talked to his followers. Thomas did not believe his co-workers. So the following week he was present with the congregation and Christ came again through locked doors. Thomas immediately changed his tune and became a staunch DISCIPLE! Dictionary meaning: pupil or follower of another; many times used in connection as a follower of Christ.
The word that brought all this on is the word DISCIPLINE!
Its definition is to train for proper conduct or a set of system rules and regulations which can be used to punish or penalize. And so I am currently musing on the connections between disciple and discipline. Something hard to practice to
belong to a favored group. I want to see the worth of this connection.
Two commands: love God and love neighbor! Is this really a discipline?

Vacate and Vacation?

Interesting two words, don’t you think? I am getting ready to vacate my office and go on vacation and I am trying to tie the two ideas together. I think I go on vacation to get away from all the brouhhaha of everyday life. I am certain that my life is nowhere near as exciting as most of my readers lives. But I have always needed calm down space. If I don’t get time to spend on prayer, meditation and good reading I am not at peace. If I don’t do anything at all I still don’t find peace. So vacating my ordinary spaces doesn’t mean a trip to an exotic place or an exciting outing filled with sightseeing and delicious food. That is not to say I don’t like these things; I LOVE them but that is not for me VACATION.
Vacation is about peace, personal peace, peace that persons can feel when they meet me. It is more than the end of war, disagreements and fighting. I don’t vacate my ordinary space to brood; I want to seek prayerful thoughts. Since Easter Sunday all the religious services have spoken about Christ’s words.
“My peace I give you… Peace that the world cannot give…
Do not let your hearts be troubled…a peace that the world cannot give I give to you…do you love me?” We always say that war breaks out, just recently I read that we should say that peace breaks out. So I am vacating my everyday space so peace can become a breakout part of my life. And I recommend to all my reader responders to move away from the unneeded excitement and drudgery of everyday life and find a peaceful spot to find all those people and things we need to put in right relationships in order to make God and the people we love the number one loves of our lives. May God lead you to your special peaceful spot.

Peace and Leaves

My thoughts today have taken a very weird route. These two title words are homonyms. If you remember your old English studies you will note that two words “piece” and the plural of “leaf” have the same sound but different meanings.
How in the world will I weave together piece and leaves?
One of the pieces of peace is the many times after the resurrection that the word peace is mentioned. It is used to stop the women from being frightened; the apostles from being locked away; and hiding from the world; and forgiveness from their deserting the one they have been following for at least three years. To make peace there have to be two pieces. The one who is disturbed with another and the other who does not want to be upset. These two have to come together. They can be individual, groups, nations–well you get the idea. They must negotiate; each must give up something and each must do something. They need to agree on these action points. Maybe they can seal their peace by prayer or go out to eat or celebrate or do something fun. Christ says “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.” If war breaks out then so can peace come out in bits and pieces.
The same for the vine and the branches as they first are leaves and left for the use of those who want to enjoy the grapes. If we use the leaves thay are always present while the grapes are only left there for a time. If the grapes are not used in the present they die. But the leaves are there for as long as we take care of them.
Well, I said this was sort of weird and it is. I sum it up by saying peace and grapes are for the person who is meditating while the person only interested in the leaves is using only pieces of a good thought. Both words can be thought of together in this kind of unusual way.

He is not here; He is risen!

This year was a very special Easter preparation for me. I think Easter is my favorite holyday. The weather is usually sunny and the flowers are making their first appearances and the world is coming alive. And for those who follow the religious cycle: a man who was horribly treated by his countrymen, dragged through a number of illegal trials, beaten by the judge who declared him innocent, and crucified for curing the sick, comforting the sorrowful, instructing the ignorant etc. Well, you get the idea. Anyway, the story doesn’t end there. I read a saying the other day. “All men are created equal; all women are created superior.” And while the male followers are hiding in a locked room, the women closest to Jesus know they have to go and make sure his body is ready for burial.
Well, in all the Gospel stories the women see the risen Jesus and return to the men to tell them and the men do not believe.
Only after Jesus comes into the locked room where they are hiding do they realize what has happened.
I always feel empowered by these brave women. I look to their bravery and willingness to step in and do the bidding of the one who has returned to life.
In this world that is beginning to come to life after the dead of winter I look to my life and see how I can bring the wonderful news to my loved ones that death is not the end. Just as Adam and Eve brought death into the world through their disobeience Jesus brought the reurrection to us by his obedience to God in giving up his life so that death is not the end but rather a new beginning. So I can celebrate with the world this time of growth and renewal.

A Reflection on LOVE for Lent

The season of Lent is now more than 1/2over. What have I done for this important pre-Easter season? In what do I believe? With what or whom am I in love? Weird question? I just found a connection between belief and love. Whenever I look up anything on the internet I get to following ideas all over the place. And the connection between belief and love took me on a very interesting trip.
The dictionary definition of belief is one that most people already know. A belief is an inward conviction into something one holds dear and is rooted in. One is usually willing to stand up for a belief. Gandhi’s quotation,”Be the change you wish to see in the world.” for example. I use Gandhi on purpose because I found a connection with the word belief and the Indo European word for belief.
Most of the languages of Europe, Iran, and parts of Asia have similarities to Sanscrit and Persian. If we split the word into two syllables we have “be” and “leurh.” Be is a state of existance, of being alive. Bileven is found in Middle English. The leurh translates into a sense of loving, desiring and caring evolving into Gemanic as bileafa. From this word comes the German term LIEBE or solid, enduring love.
So, what do I believe? What or whom do I love and what have I done so far this Lent to prove the truth of my beliefs?
Easter is just around the corner and I need to look at my loves!

Forgiveness!

Another Lent! and I am afraid I still find it ugly and offensive. I think it is because like a diet I make up my mind to change, go for it, get sick and tired of it, and give up. Too hard! Too much work! No changes accomplished! And the hardest thing or person to forgive is ME!
This year Ash Wednesday was also the feast of an early holy man who lived at the times of the apostles. He did not know Christ but he did make a few friends of the early Christians–John in particular. He worked hard to spread the new ideas that were swelling into the great thoughts and actions of the second century. I am going to leave you with a few choice words of this holy man,St. Polycarp of Smyrna. Most people are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. One of the most exciting and disturbing lines for me:”Forgive us our tresspasses as WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESSPASS AGAINST US. We ask the Lord to be forgiving to us as we forgive someone else. A blessing or a curse?!
St. Polycarp wrote these words as a bishop in 107 A.D. “If we pray to the Lord to forgive us, we ourselves must be forgiving: we are all under the eyes of Our Lord and God, and everyone of us must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, where each of us will have to give an account.”
And because the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, I must learn to love myself; and forgive myself for all those things that bother me that I do not try to change. Then I must endeavor to love my neighbors for all those things they do that bother me. Jesus did not say “Take up my cross” but rather “Take up your cross.” Forgive myself so I can forgive others. Whew! Is forgiveness a Lenten struggle for me!

My Heartbeat: an Emotional Valentine

Valentine’s Day–a huge day in the life of most people…(an aside: this is another example of a Christian holyday becoming a worldly celebration like halloween, christmas St. Nicholas–)Really: take some time and look up the beginnings of these celebrations. How do you celebrate this day? No, I ask you, do you wish yourself a great valentine’s day? The Bible says that the summary of the ten commandments can be done in two parts. First, love God above all things with every part of your being. And second, love your neighbor, but it doesn’t end there. We must love our neighbors as we love ouselves. Oh,boy! Have I ever thought whether I love myself? Do I love myself? These are deep meditation points. Even those who say they don’t think much of themselves get very upset when someone agrees with that point of view that they are not so hot.
God has given each of us a unique “emotional” heartbeat-those things that intensely interest me and make my heart beat faster. Don’t ignore those interests. Study how you use them. Make a list of those things you really enjoy doing. Reading, traveling, talking to family on the phone, shopping etc. Then ask yourself, “When was the last time I did one of my favorite things?” If it has been a long time since you did anything for yourself, it could be why you are not as happy-content-fulfilled as you would like to be. Yes, you should be your first valentine.
But after you valentine yourself say,”Self, how do I use my favorite things, my emotional heart beaters? I enrich myself. Do I enrich others? Is it true that what I do for fun by myself can be more fun when I do it with someone else? Just a few thoughts to make this a very happy St. Valentine’s Day for you and another.

A Thought for a New Year

Why in the world did Jesus begin life as a baby? What can a baby teach us? Oh, I know, you think of all the things associated with baby care and you say eeew! But there are wonderful things also. A baby has not hurt your feelings by telling you something you do not like about yourself. When a baby smiles at you or takes your finger in hand your body and soul seem to melt into another world. And if a baby smiles in a dream, don’t you wish you knew what was going on in the baby’s dream?
Jean Vainer wrote that Jesus came to reveal the TRUE face of God. A God in love with each one of us no matter how unimportant we think we are. Like snowflakes and fingerprints we are unique, different. Even twins are not totally alike. I could be completely different with red hair or green eyes or big feet or long fingers or a gravelly voice. But I am who I am because that is the way that it is. And my uniqueness is what makes me interesting and loveable. No matter my littleness or importance, beauty or brokenness, strength or weakness–and I believe everyone has all these characteristics–I am loved by a God who thought it important enough to begin life as I did. How can I see human life as anything but precious? How can I make others realize how important they are to my world and the world around us? Can I make a resolution to greet every person in my life as though they were very important to me and I need them to make my world a better place. How good these thoughts make me feel! Just a simple thought for the year 2012.

Is Jesus Really the Reason for the Season?

Has the SEASON become the reason? For presents,sleigh bells holly, mistletoe,special songs, church bells, snow, Saint Nicholas,(Santa Claus), that is my wondering. This week I received a beautiful and moving video on youtube and facebook. Entitled “Where is the Line to See Jesus?” it is a question posed by a four year old who stands waiting for a turn to see Santa. This song, inspired by the family of the young child bounced around after being written. No music company picked it up or even responded to the idea. Finally two young people decided to make the song into a video and post it on facebook. As they say, the first day it became history. Three thousand people watched it and made copies and asked for the music after listening and responding to the song. When will YOU/I be standing in line to see Jesus? Check out the video.
www.youtube.com/watch-popup
Have a blessed Christmas and remember: Luke 9:48. Jesus speaks,”Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
From three centuries ago to modern times a little child still leads us.

A Church on the Calendar of Saints?

Many churches celebrate the daily passing of time with a calendar to acknowledge and remember those who have been heroic or saintly. I know my church does. So imagine my surprise when I found November 9 listed as the Feast Day of St. John Lateran, Official Church of the Pope in Rome. I wondered why so I looked for answers wherever I could. I found some interesting facts. This is the oldest church built in Rome and it is the Pope’s church even though it is not in the Vatican and is the number one church for Catholics even though St. Peter’s Basilica is in Vatican City and visited more often. It was consecrated in 324 AD to St. John the Baptist and later dedicated to St. John the Evangelist in the twelfth century. So now it is in honor of them both. But they have their own days of honor. You see, the person who is honored on the calendar date is to become for one an example of goodness and righteousness–someone who would set a good example for the person who looks into their life or reason for being part of the calendar celebration.

So, why a church? Well, a church is supposed to be clean and well kept. It is a place where a person can sit and quietly reflect on the important things of life. It can be decorated and polished and its contents can be moved or changed. It can hold a small group or a large congregation. And it can make one feel peaceful or happy or fulfilled. It is usually a safe place to sit and rest. It is a friend.

Aha! If I truly believe that my body and soul, my mind and heart can do all the things a church does then I can think of myself as a holy place and take care of myself in various ways so that I can become a place where others can come and enjoy life with me and together we can make the world a better place. What a great thought! What a wonderful reason to celebrate the holy day of a Church. Makes me realize even more,”In the word church,UR in the middle of it.” And you and I together are a powerful team for good.