Sunday, July 15, 2012

We are Called to Forgive

              “My dear Lord, so full of mercy and love, why do so many of us struggle with the concept of forgiveness? To forgive is at the very core of Christianity. Your death on the cross and Your resurrection was for the forgiveness of all our sins, once and for all, so that we could receive Your great mercy and grace, allowing us ultimately to be with You in eternity. You gave us everything - the life of Your beloved son, to forgive us for every transgression, from tiny infractions to major heinous crimes. Dear Lord, Your mercy is so great, like the vast oceans that cover the great earth You created. I am humbled and eternally grateful.
                “Why then do so many people hold on to the hurt, pain, anger and frustration that go hand in hand with an unforgiven offense? Lord, help us remember that when You forgive us, it is complete and unconditional. If we cannot pass that favor on to our brothers and sisters everywhere of whom You have instructed us to love dearly, we are saying no to You and no to Your forgiveness for us. The Lord’s prayer says, ‘…Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ Our forgiveness must mirror Yours or else we are telling You not to forgive us completely. Isn’t the horrible crucifixion of You dear Jesus on the cross enough to pay for that person’s sin? You shed Your precious blood and sacrificed Your life to forgive everyone for everything. What more can possibly be done to let this person be forgiven? When we refuse to forgive, our self love and pride take over saying ‘I deserve more, no one can treat me like that and nothing that anyone can do is enough to satisfy my sense of justice.’  
“God, You created every living person and You want to dwell within everyone. Can we really step into the role of judge and decide that that person is not worthy of love when You have already claimed him and You want to dwell inside him as well? The person may be confused, struggling with their own issues, learning and transforming themselves, though not always very well. But Lord, You want all of us and You have a plan for each and every one of us. We are all on a journey of self exploration and transformation. If I can’t forgive someone because they messed up, am I telling You Lord not to forgive me when I mess up? I think back on my life and I cringe at all the stupid things I have said and done, the people I hurt, the careless disregard I showed at times and I am so grateful that those ridiculous transgressions have been forgiven by You dear Lord who contains all power, authority and justice. If some of the people I hurt along the way have also forgiven me, then I am doubly blessed and filled with a sense of relief and gratitude. I believe in heaven and eternal life and I believe that all anger, hurt, pain and disgust will not exist there. Why can’t it also begin here on earth? ‘…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth and it is in heaven…’ Isn’t this the prayer You taught us when the early disciples first asked You to teach them how to pray?
“By holding on to a grudge, we also let our pride swell up inside us, implying that we know something more about the situation or the person than You, the very One who created everything. How can we possibly know the whole story? Everyone has a history and a series of events that shapes us and oftentimes, influences our behaviors. Many times, people are more understanding if they know the background or where that person came from. Only You Lord, know everyone’s true story so we need to trust your judgment which always has forgiveness as its end. When we refuse to forgive, it’s as if we are saying, ‘Fine, You can forgive him if You like Lord. Sacrifice Your Son for him and his offense, but that is not enough for me. I don’t care about the whole story. I cannot forgive that person. That person hurt me beyond repair.’ This also shows a lack of confidence and faith in Your healing power. You can heal and turn the hardest of hearts if only we ask You to do so.
 “Is that offense we find so hard to forgive really worth saying no to You God? When we can’t forgive, when we say no to You Lord, we are not allowing You to dwell within us. When we don’t allow You Lord within us, we lose our joy, our peace, and our love and we replace these with anger, chaos, frustration, hurt and pain. We are not at peace and we become consumed with ourselves and how we feel. This feeds our pride and our self love and we lose our vision of God within us, the way the stain of breath disappears on a mirror and we are left only looking at ourselves.
“We also bind ourselves to the person we can’t forgive. That person may not even realize how hurt we are and he or she may have moved on without a passing thought of us. Yet we remain tied to that person through our lack of forgiveness. Our thoughts and feelings dwell on them and we can become consumed with misery over this person. Forgiveness cuts those binds like scissors and frees us from all the anger, hurt and frustration. Dear Lord, give me the grace to pick up the scissors and cut those bonds. Free me through Your love.
“Lord, help us remember that as Christians, we are called to imitate Christ in all situations, as best as we can, and though we are not perfect like Him, we are asked to try. Help us also remember how Your perfect Son, who was completely without sin, was unmercifully persecuted, condemned, beaten, mocked, humiliated, and cruelly murdered for doing absolutely nothing more than loving us and offering a way to eternal happiness. When we can’t forgive someone, stop and think about it. Was that person’s offense and our subsequent hurt feelings or anger anything compared to Jesus’ persecution? Maybe it was. Maybe there were horrific consequences, but then remember Jesus. How did He treat His persecutors? He forgave them while He died on the cross. Are we so much better that we can’t forgive?
 “Lord, I welcome the opportunity to show mercy to others because it is what You do for all of us. If someone offends me, I take it as a chance to grow and a test of how much I have learned of Your mercy. When I feel that tinge of anger swell up inside me toward someone, I will stop and think about how insignificant the issue really is compared to some of the awful tragedies that occur throughout the world. I pray especially for those people who are really hurt by others through the murder of a loved one or a senseless hate crime. To forgive a delusional murderer or a terrorist is a huge test of mercy. I think those who are asked to forgive in these situations are truly asked to imitate Christ and I see them as saints and I hope to try to be like them. When they forgive, they are truly imitating You dear Lord.
 “Lord, I pray for mercy and I pray for the grace of forgiveness. I pray that I can always see the beautiful soul You placed inside everyone, no matter how lost or confused they might be on their journey. You never turned Your back on me or denied me forgiveness, may I never turn my back on anyone or deny them forgiveness either, ‘…on earth as it is in heaven.’”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Help Me be a Part of Your Entire Creation

                “I humbly bow my head in prayer today to my Lord who masterfully orchestrates all our lives and all things within this world, not only in this time, but throughout all of history and ahead into eternity. When I realize what it means to call You the creator, then I truly marvel at how I dare to question any of the events that occur in my life. Why must I be so untrusting? Why must I hesitate? I know You love me more than I can ever truly understand, so why is it difficult for me to say thank you for every unexpected event that is laid in my path? Help me be brave. Help me trust in what is unknown to me. Help me remember that You are right here, intimately involved in every detail of my life. You are preparing me, shaping me to be the holy person You see in me, to be a clear reflection of You. I want to be close to You so why do I question the things You send to make that a reality? I can only begin to understand what Your suffering as a human must have been like as the very people You created and loved so tenderly, rejected You, jeered at You and eventually killed You in the most disrespectful way available. So if I desire to be in close communion with You, why do I question the miniscule sufferings and hardships You send my way. How else can I be close to You if I don’t experience a part of what You felt? Instead, let me embrace my crosses joyfully and thankfully. Let me enthusiastically run into the unknown desert like those following Moses. May the joy and celebration they felt on the first day of their exodus permeate my soul every day. Let me welcome change, embrace the hardships and bravely face the unknown with the vision of You leading me smiling and pointing the way to a better existence. Help me to always remember that this world and all of us in it is part of Your masterpiece creation. It is absolutely perfect because it is what You wanted. Thank You for placing me in this work of art wherever You want me to create a beautiful reality. I am but a tiny piece of Your work of art. “

Your Whispers

                “Dear Lord, part of me wishes You would shout out to the entire world, ‘Repent and believe in Me, God the Father!’ like Jonah walking through Nineveh. Would anyone listen? Would anyone hear? I see people talking on their cell phones, driving their cars with the radio blasting, IPods in people’s ears, music in every store, televisions blaring to people both asleep and awake. So much noise, so much distraction – even if Your booming voice blasted through all these electronic noise makers, I could see people being annoyed, thinking there was a glitch in the system. How many would really listen to You? My suggestion of blasting the good news to everyone everywhere may not be the best way.
                “Your ways are always far superior. You don’t send obvious signs or speak loudly. Instead, You gently whisper into the hearts of those hungrily seeking Your love, whether they are aware of that hunger and need for You or not. You know our hearts and our minds; You know best how to reach each and every one of us. It may be through the love of a child or the love of an elderly infirmed person. Someone may be moved to tears through the lyrics or melody of a song inspired by You. Someone else may be moved by a simple solitary act of charity from an unexpected source. You are so much more subtle. The gentle whispers I hear in my heart move my entire being far more than any loud message shrouded in lights and sounds and images. Just like when You walked on earth, the miracles You performed didn’t turn everyone’s hearts. Many refused to believe. Your gentle loving ways were the example and sign that remained etched in people’s souls, both then and now.
                “Oh dear Lord, help me tune out the useless distracting noise of today. Help me tune into the gentle quiet stirring whispers You send deep into my heart. Grant me the ability to be silent. Fill me with the desire to earnestly listen for You Word, for Your will, for Your way. May I always cultivate that great burning need to be with You. May I have the desire to shout out ‘Repent and believe,’ but may my soul dwell in peaceful silence to hear Your whispers.”

Chaos and Peace

                “Lord, why is it so hard for us to find You? There is chaos everywhere where You are not. It seems so simple; find a quiet peaceful place and there we will find You. It doesn’t have to be an actual place. In Your omnipresence, you are in everything everywhere at the same time. Even people can hold Your presence within themselves, therefore, a simple conversation with them that brings us peace and joy, reveals Your beautiful presence. If pulling weeds and turning dirt in the garden brings us great peace, then we have discovered You in the very plants and earth You created. Because You are everywhere, we can find You anywhere.
                “Chaos forms in the absence of You. Genesis tells us that in the beginning, ‘earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).’ It was chaos. Then You started creating things in an orderly fashion – You created order out of that chaos and formed the light, the sky, the earth and ordered all the living things within earth. When we ignore Your presence and focus on how we perceive and order things, chaos forms and our precepts and structures fail, both physical and mental. It’s like trying to walk in the streets of a large city during morning or evening rush hour. People are so focused on themselves that they walk quickly and forcefully right into you as you try to navigate your way through the crowd. The car horns are honking, crime may be occurring – from a bird’s eye view, it looks like chaos.
                “Yet somewhere amidst this chaos, there may be a little child kneeling by a bed humbly asking for something in prayer – Lord, You are there. There may be someone serving a meal with warmth and compassion to the poor and homeless – Lord, You are there. There may be someone praying outside an abortion clinic, amidst taunts and jeers, for the expectant mothers to reconsider allowing the precious life You created to continue – Lord, You are there. There may be a son or daughter gently holding the hand of a sick or dying parent in the hospital – Lord, You are there. There may even be a person in the sea of people walking in the streets who makes eye contact with those passing by and cheerfully says hello – Lord, You are there. The stock exchange, the malls, the bars, the drunk and murderous thieves – here there is chaos. Your presence can still be uncovered even in these places, but it takes prayer and transformation to replace that chaos with Your peace.
                “Help me Lord to always seek peace. Help me to look harder in the chaos to find You. Help me to move through this world recognizing the peace and order You originally created within the utter chaos of nothingness at the beginning. May I breathe in Your presence and exhale Your peace.”

How Do I Know When I Hear Your Voice?

                “Dear Lord, how do I know when I hear Your voice? I get so many fleeting thoughts that race through my head. I have many unfinished ideas and plans. How do I know which ones come from You and which ones come from me? I guess if I am in tune with You, then all thoughts in my head are from You because You are in me and our hearts are joined. But then what about the times I am not in tune with You? Will I recognize when I am not in tune? Those feelings of doubt, anxiety, fear, restlessness – those are all clues of when I am not in tune with You. So when I am at peace, when I feel joy, when I just want to throw up my arms to You, those are the times I need to listen to the thoughts in my head.
                “But there are so many things I want to do for You. Maybe that is just me busying myself with things like a hamster building a nest in a cage. Hamsters move things around and around but don’t seem to be creating more than a big pile. It’s hard for me to just “be.”
“You told me to be patient and to let us walk together. I need to remember Your hand on my shoulder, even if it just means to sit still and watch everything around us. Help me sit still to hear Your gentle voice as it whispers wisdom and love in my ear. Then I will know I hear Your voice and not mine.”