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All posts on this website are the property of the author V. L. Murray and may not be copied or used without the written permission of the author.
Give Up Misery
It seems, as we grow older, and our dreams and personal goals are not always fulfilled, that we begin to sink into a world of sadness and regret: sorrow at not achieving our goals, and regret for the mistakes we have made, the losses we have incurred which might have been avoided, and choices which fell short of success.
It can all be so very frustrating. It would probably be less frustrating if we had actually known in advance what our life was to be about.
If you watch documentaries, like I do, you’ll often see the stories of the most amazing people who ended up becoming famous or rich, and greatly influential, not through their original desires and goals, but through venues so different, they never would have imagined them at all.
Many times, horrific accidents happen which make a person’s original desires impossible: the runner becomes paralyzed, the brilliant mind unable to speak, the individual who dreams of success but can’t afford to go to school, the poor woman whose face is burnt with acid. All these people felt on those terrible days that their lives had ended.
But then God came into the picture. Suddenly the athlete felt inspired to become a motivational speaker, for as they moved forward through the depth of their own struggles, they realized everything they had learned and were learning could help others face and conquer their own obstacles.
The child who could not afford education finds a way to enable others to learn, and as an adult organizes and founds schools for children in their region to attend where they can be taught free of charge.
The brilliant mind, helped by advances in technology, is able to communicate their knowledge in a most amazing way, bringing attention to their wisdom by the very uniqueness of its presentation, and allows their brilliance to come to the forefront of millions more than could ever be conceived.
The young woman, burned by those who only seek to oppress, suddenly finds herself a spokesperson for all like her around the world, who cannot speak for themselves. She takes up the torch and becomes a symbol of peace and fortitude for millions.
Just think if we’d known, would we have made a difference? Or would we have fought against our own possibilities? Would we have ever achieved the glory waiting for us?
It is important to realize that all glory and success was not intended to be universally recognized. Sometimes we are simply the seed or the fertilizer for someone else’s glory. Sometimes we are to be the teacher, the parent, the sibling of the one who unites the world. The servant of the servant.
And so measuring success is a relative thing and often difficult to recognize as we struggle along, day by day, doing the same old thing, morning, noon and night. And therein lies the rub, for where is our joy if we only measure our achievements by others’ glories.
When our life has not seemed to have broken through the ice forming over our heads, and we cannot get to the air above to breathe and feel the relief of success and windfall, we can find ourselves sinking lower and lower, down into the murky depths of our own perceived failures, until we are so entangled in our loss, we cannot move or even breathe, and then life seems only a great dark place of despair.
We are ‘miserable’. And, actually, misery doesn’t really love company. No one wants to talk to us anymore because we only speak darkness. No one wants to be around us anymore, because we give off only anger and other dark emotions. And we just don’t feel like having others near us. We never smile. We never laugh. We find ourselves alone and miserable, blaming others and the world for the failure which is our life.
Do you recognize anyone?
Do you recognize some of this in yourself?
I think we all have days like this, some of us more than others. Especially when illness or injury appears at our door. Or when life has taken us along a different, unexpected path. Perhaps one of great physical suffering.
But these things are not new. These despairs have affected many many others over centuries, and not all have killed themselves or let themselves languish in the mud.
What about the Saints? What did they do to achieve Sainthood, when the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” hit them square in the eye?
Well, some didn’t become Saints overnight. But others achieved their manifest destiny during their worst times of pain and hardship. Like Saint Terese de Lisieux, whose “Little Way” is a manual for the whole of life, like a Twelve Step Program before there was such a thing.
So what do we do when we find ourselves relishing the misery, because misery can be an addiction? It is easier to blame everyone else for our troubles than to change our way of thinking. It is easier to sit and complain than get up and put a smile on our face. Especially if we’ve been doing it our whole life.
But just life Scrooge, it’s never too late to change.
The first step is realizing you’re not alone in your feelings. The second step is deciding you want something better. The third is realizing it’s okay, actually it’s ‘good’ to be happy.
And then, smile. Laugh. Say hello to a neighbour. Send a “thinking of you” card to a friend or family member.
Get out of the house. Volunteer somewhere. Help someone else. Forget yourself.
Sow love where there is hatred. Sow forgiveness where there is injury. Sow peace where there is quarrelling.
Turn on the Light! Be the Light in the darkness of despair! Be the hope in someone else’s life. Be the joy in the morning of another’s day.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” St. Francis of Assisi
For Lent this year, give up the habit of misery. Seek to find joy in the Loving Light of God.
Golgotha is Just Ahead
Walking through the Stations of the Cross, on Friday evenings, is eye-opening to me and gives me something to think about, not only in a specific focus on the final trials of our Lord, but in relation to other events going on in this world.
As we watch a good person like Jesus be accused of something unjustly, and then tortured and executed for it, we can see many comparisons to our present world.
Every day the news stations broadcast the bombing raids on innocent civilians caught up in wars not of their own making. We see citizens—standing up for injustice in their own countries, trying to make change and vote out corrupt governments—being arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed. Others, who have fled their countries, are assassinated in the streets of the places they sought safety.
And what of religious persecution? What of countries which outlaw specific faiths and hunt their practitioners down, often challenging their members to reject their faith or die?
Nothing seems to have changed much, has it?
We are still a planet of warring neighbours. We still go after those with whom we disagree with a vengeance.
The difference, of course, for Jesus, is that He was the Son of God. He tried to teach us to love one another, as He and His Father love us.
But we’re a prickly bunch, hard to love, and harder to get along with.
Take a look at your life as you journey along this road toward Easter. At a personal level, are you the prickly pear in the basket? Are you the one who disagrees with every one and every thing? Or are you the peacemaker: the person who steps into the breach when people aren’t getting along and tries to calm things down?
On a grander scale, what are you doing to assist with peace in the world? Are you writing letters to governments, or helping organizations fight injustice? Or are you looking the other way, hoping the problems will disappear?
Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher from the 1700s, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
He also said: “In doing good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish; and of all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works of malice and injustice are quite in another style. They are finished with a bold, masterly hand; touched as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our energies whenever we oppress and persecute.” From a speech in Bristol, September 6th, 1780
The dark side rallies its troops with all energy and revs the engines of many, leading them into battle, whether it be war against other countries, faiths or races. And what do we do to stop it?
To me, it seems the Good Side has lost a lot of its punch. Some are so caught up in materialism, and trinkets and toys, that they have lost their sense of duty. Others have selectively ‘turned their other cheek’, hoping they will never have to choose. And still others are too busy arguing points, splitting the hairs already split and chewing the chewed over and over again until it’s too late.
As Burke said: “Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference.” January 1795
Are you indifferent? Do you “speak of atrocious crime” in mild language, which Burke said “is treason to virtue”?
As we walk with Jesus toward Golgotha, which side will you be on? Will you be a mourner who denies? Or one who boldly steps forward into the fray?
Will you ‘hope’ for peace? Or fight for it in every way you are able?
It’s time to decide.
Golgotha is just ahead.
One Moment at a Time
We’ve been talking a lot about reassessing our lives, and giving up old habits and things which are detrimental to our health. I’m sure during those forty days Jesus fasted in the desert, He went over everything He’d ever done in His own life and contemplated everything He knew was coming in His future.
As horrific as it was to be, He knew one thing was for sure, God would be with Him. And He also knew eternity was just beyond the next horizon.
What about us then? We are figuratively in the desert with Him, right now, struggling to cast off our iniquities, our sins and transgressions, and trying to adopt a new way of living. We are attempting to purify our souls and make us worthy of our next horizon, especially the one where God appears.
What happens if we screw up, if we just can’t seem to make the grade? What do we do then? How do we fix things?
I like to think of my life as a Twelve Step Program, just like Alcoholics Anonymous. Just for today….
Just for today, I will try not to swear when I stub my toe, and if that doesn’t seem to work then I will attempt to find some words to yell out at those moments which won’t offend the ears of God.
If today is too big an expanse for me to conquer then I’ll go for something smaller. Just for this hour….
And if that doesn’t work, because I know myself and how one phone call from someone whom I really have trouble with, that person who pushes all my buttons, is gonna screw something up—well, I’m going to try…just for this moment.
Yes, I think that might work.
If I live totally in the present moment only, not thinking about the next minute or hour or day or week or month, I might have a chance to achieve the glory that is promised me as a believer in God and a follower of His Son.
I don’t know if Jesus ever swore; I know He lost His temper. When He did, I think He had a ‘get out of jail free’ card tucked in His pocket so He’d be okay.
We all have one of those too. It’s called Grace. The ritual of Grace is repentance, and then changing our ways.
I’m going to try really hard, but one moment at a time seems to be my best shot in this lunatic asylum called Earth.
What about you? What are you going to do about the things you want to change?
Just take it one moment at a time. Know God is right there beside you, cheering you on and ready to forgive and forget in a nano-second.
Everything’s going to be alright.
What Are You Doing Here?
One morning, a few years ago, I woke up and my first thought was: What am I doing here?
I wasn’t referring to where I was currently residing but where my life was heading, and what I was doing with it.
When I first moved thousands of miles away from my hometown, I felt I had an opportunity to re-invent myself. But that first move was rather un-nerving and I spent most of the time labouring physically, and the rest of it, defending myself from the “slings and arrows” thrown by a group of people who were less than happy I was now present in their lives. When you’re under attack all the time, you can lose your goals pretty quickly.
Eventually we moved again, and the journey to the next place gave me more of a sense of stability and enough grounding to finally be able to relax, look around and take a breath.
It was kind of amazing to me, considering everything, that when I examined my journey, and then re-examined my childhood dreams, I found I had somehow achieved one of them—I was now a writer, a published author and a book editor. I wasn’t even sure how it happened. My path had been music and teaching and taking care of my family, with a side order of writing and producing a wholistic magazine, but as a young child, all I had ever wanted to do was read books and write stories. Now, somehow, as if by magic, I was walking that walk.
But…I also realized that during the struggle to survive, I’d forgotten a lot of who I had been before that great migration. Somewhere, I lost a lot of myself.
So, I sat down and went over who I used to be and what I liked doing way back when I lived in another place. I made a careful list and contemplated each item. Some things I had completely forgotten and it surprised me to discover that. It was as if I had assumed the role of another individual. It felt like I was playing a part in a movie.
It has taken a while to slowly re-integrate the best of my old self into the new one, but I am accomplishing it. Along the way I’ve found new friends and re-kindled old friendships. It’s really important to hang onto old friends. They give you a sense of your history.
During this time of Lenten reflection, take a look at your life. Are you who you want to be? Have you achieved any of your childhood dreams? Are you right on track? Or…have you lost your way? Lost your footing? Or are your new dreams and visions better than the old ones?
Re-examine your life in the context of old and new goals. Is there something of your old self that you loved which has somehow disappeared from your present world? Can you get it back? Is it a good idea to resurrect it?
Re-assess. Re-examine. Be willing to let go of that which isn’t productive in your life. If you can’t let go then talk to someone about how to handle it in a positive way.
When Lent is over, aim to be transformed. Reach for the person you’ve always wanted to be and ask for God’s help to achieve that goal. For God knows the way to happiness, even our own.
Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace:
I have a Saint card of Saint Francis of Assisi with his Peace Prayer on the back. I have always loved this most famous of his prayers, and have found myself, lately, in this world of violence and chaos, to be saying it more and more everyday. In fact, it has become almost a go-to default prayer when anything happens around me that is less than harmonious. So I got thinking that each line really had meaning for me, and maybe I should explore the words more deeply.
If you haven’t read the prayer before, it goes like this:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Here’s a link to his biography and a lot more info on his life. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi
Today, I have just been contemplating the first line of this Peace Prayer. “Lord make me an instrument of your peace.”
Wow, think about that. I have been asking myself questions all day. Am I a peacemaker? Or am I a troublemaker? Do I try to keep the peace when things are going well, or do I stir up things and cause problems? Do I know what peace is? Peace between people, communities and countries.
I think about my life in relation to my family and friends, those who are close by. Am I being peaceful with them when I talk? Or am I disturbing them with conversation that stirs up trouble? Am I being supportive of their calmness, if they are calm? Or am I somehow troubled when they are calm and am perhaps not feeling that way, and as a result, do I just refuse to be quiet and harmonious? Do I try to prolong peace and a peaceful atmosphere, or do I really not care and just let the words and energy of disturbance fly around me, throwing off the balance of calm, when I am tired or the day is not going well?
Is my community at peace? The townhouse complex where I live. Or are the people always angry at each other and finding fault? Do I find fault with them when I’m alerted to disturbances within the group? Or do I try to make peace between people, unruffle their feathers and calm everyone down? Do I refuse to talk about it or do I dig up even more to grumble about? Hmm…
And what about our greater community? Our provinces. I live in British Columbia which is bordered completely on one side by the Pacific Ocean. This ocean is full of sea creatures including whales and sea lions, seals and sea birds. Beautiful living beings who are being destroyed by plastic and pollution in their waters, and killed by ships going up and down the coast, both cruise ships and oil tankers. Our neighbours, in Alberta, have virtually declared war on our province because we have refused to allow them to twin a pipeline which already is in place and has done its job successfully for many years now. If the pipeline is twinned it will increase the oil tankers in our water sevenfold and also run a greater risk of an oil spill destroying the sea life and the sea itself. So Alberta has threatened to stop all oil and gas shipments to us because we don’t want to increase the risks. They blame us for their loss of jobs, even though their jobs have been dying out on their own, not because of our not adding another pipeline. One has done the job for years and sufficed.
So they hate us and throw out all kinds of nasty rhetoric. And I feel bad and it stirs up anger within myself, and our citizens on both sides. So what can I do? How do I maintain the peace within and without? What a dilly of a mess.
So I decided to talk to God about it and He said I should ‘pray’ for peace when the situation seems beyond my own control. That if I can’t make peace happen, then I should step aside and hand it over to God and pray for Him take over, trusting that He will create a situation which resolves the issue, one way or another. Then I should relax and feel love for my neighbours in Alberta even though many of them don’t feel much love toward me. And so I am praying that the situation will work itself out for the betterment of our planet.
And I will breathe peace into my heart and be calm.
And as far as the world is concerned? Well, that is a hard one too. And so I am praying for peace around the world, and doing novenas (nine day prayers) with specific goals in mind. And I believe things will sort themselves out. I reach into the love of God and pull out some for myself and my neighbours, be they one province over or several countries away.
I reach into God’s love and pull it onto myself, wearing it like a coat.
Just for today, be the peace. Breathe the peace. Be the peacemaker. Pray for peace. Wear the peace of God. Be an instrument of God’s peace.
Peace be with you.
Exploring the Divine: Love is the Answer
A few Sundays ago, our priest, Father Ajin, spoke quite eloquently about Jesus’ words to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. … and to love your neighbour as yourself.” ( The whole reading was from Mark 12: 28-34) He stopped on the second part and drew our attention to the words: “love your neighbours as yourself.”. That got my attention immediately.
I guess I had never really thought about the “as yourself” part before. I only ever heard the first section. He pointed out how important it is to learn to love ourselves before we can truly love our neighbour. And then the same is true if we are to truly love God.
It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I had a wave of realizations go through my mind. It suddenly made sense why there was such hatred and insanity in the world. People just don’t love themselves. And why is that? Because so many have never felt love before.
We live in a crazy age. Many cultures of the world say we are in an age of destruction and chaos. Some even teach that it is also the age of “unwanted children.” If ever truer words were spoken I don’t know where you’d find them. For so many individuals, no one has ever taught them it is okay to love themselves, because many, many children have been raised to feel completely unloved. They have grown up with neglect, abuse and violence, so why would they love themselves?
When so many parents are having to work to afford to live, and the norm of our society is to plunk our elders into care-homes instead of having them live with us as in days of old, to help provide an element of stability in our households, many of our children and young people are a neglected mess. The laws of our land don’t seem to help. Taxes are extremely high making it almost impossible for one parent to stay home—if there even is a second parent in the home to cover the work arena. Very late-term abortions are legal in many countries, including Canada, which alone corroborates the idea of “unwanted children.” Foster care is rampant and in many cases places youngsters in foster homes where it’s more about the money coming in for each child rather than the desire to love them. Constant online bullying is trickling down from the highest voices in some lands, and racism and various phobias are being loudly played out on the world’s stage. The world is full of the frightened, bullied, tormented and unloved—literally millions of them.
I remember the old days, when mothers or other family members stayed at home, and there was a sense of stability in the house. Of course, not all homes were peaceful and not all parents were loving, but it seems to me that the balance was more tilted in that direction than it is now in many communities. I remember when if parents died, children went to the nearest relative (if there was one) to be raised, instead of the state insisting the children go to strangers. Of course, if you made a will stating where your kids were to go if something happened to you, then hopefully things would be okay. But, so many have just been dropped into foster care without much thought as to whether that was the best thing for the child’s heart and emotional well-being.
As I said before, when the parents and grand-parents became too elderly to live on their own, the family used to care for them at home. Now everyone is chucked into nursing homes to received generic care in a generic institution, and with the new euthanasia laws, their lifespan could become more and more fragile, depending on the person with power-of-attorney. When did we become a nation of killers? When did it become perfectly acceptable to off the very young and the elderly because we can’t put ourselves out to care for them?
Look at this refugee crisis in the U.S. where the children were taken away from the adults and put into foster care—children of all ages. And of course it has come out that the proper paperwork was not done in so many cases, and now they have many many children whom they literally don’t have any documentation for, and thus, no idea of where to send them and who to send them to.
What kind of information would a child of two or three be able to give to their interrogators? What do they know? They are strangers in a strange land who don’t speak the language and can’t lead anyone to their home, and their parents are often only known to them as Mummy and Daddy. What kind of nightmare is this going to create in these children long-term? Will they love themselves? Or will they think of themselves as totally unworthy of love and kindness.
What does feeling unloved bring about? I’m sure you can guess. Just look at the violence in the streets, our prisons, the many unsolved crimes, and the mass murders which seem to be on the rise. It’s the rare child who comes out of a nightmare and turns their life into a dream. Very rare. If they are lucky enough to get really kind teachers or foster parents, they might beat the odds, but so many won’t, and this can help to explain why kids who grow up in the Western World—a place which many residents and leaders feel is so superior in every way—travel abroad and become terrorists fighting against the very society they grew up in.
From online bullying to physical in your face bullying and taunts, we seem to be living in a society of hatred and nastiness. I don’t remember ever seeing the kind of behaviour exhibited in today’s world back when I was young. This society of today is completely unrecognizable to me. There were always a few jerks in the neighbourhood, but when did they become the norm? When did it become acceptable for there to be so many guns and shootings on a daily basis, even here in Canada? The States, I can understand, but not Canada. Here in the Lower Mainland of BC, there is a tremendous rise in gang shootings. They are almost a daily occurrence now. Ridiculous! And the modern version of mass murder, mowing down crowds with moving vehicles, has reached our borders, too. We are in trouble in our world.
“It’s the rare child who comes out of a nightmare
and turns their life into a dream.”
War is everywhere. Unrest is everywhere. Terrorism is trickling into every country. Refugees as a whole seem to be the largest single population on the planet. Nationalism and a re-visiting of Nazi culture is on the rise worldwide. Religious war has escalated into a modern version of the Crusades. The U.S. is experiencing a division in political and cultural behaviour not seen since the Civil War of the mid-1800’s. From economics to racial discrimination, to power struggles of the elite, the U.S. is spiralling down from the position it once held as a relatively respected world leader, into a society that is, in many places, being hated and dissed at all levels.
Returning vets from WWI and WWII came back with their innocence gone and many of them took out their frustration, sorrow and confusion on their families and friends, but back then they were told to suck it up. Of course, that didn’t help. Instead it often created a society with increasing alcoholism and domestic abuse. The many wars since have produced as many mentally injured as well as physically wounded. PTSD is probably the most well-known acronym of the times. It is the most common mental illness of our day.
America, untouched by a modern-day war on its own soil, which could produce displacement of its own citizenry, lately is experiencing a refugee crisis caused by natural calamity, as fires race up the west coast, burning everything in site. And while so many of America’s own people reject the idea of welcoming refugees from other lands, one would hope that this glimpse into the world of so many around the world, would lighten their hearts and motivate them to open their doors to their fellow human beings who are starving, homeless and suffering terribly because of bombing and aggression inflicted upon them by, very often, their own leadership. I cannot even imagine what it would feel like to have bombs falling on you and to see your loved ones killed or even worse, wounded, in front of you and know there is no help for them anywhere nearby; to be homeless and have to find your way to some kind of shelter while the bombs are still falling; to hear the screams of your own child, wife or husband and know there is nothing you can do. If that didn’t bring on PTSD, well, I don’t know what would.
So there you have it: some really obvious reasons why hatred, mental illness, and meanness are rampant worldwide. And the solutions? How do we teach the unloved to love themselves? How do we teach the unloved to love their neighbour? And how do we teach them to love God? Or even believe in God?
At this stage of the game, I think we have to become incredibly active. In other words, spread our love around. Learn to love ourselves, and then love our neighbour to the best of our ability. Understand God created us in His image to do what Jesus did: to love everyone including us. And not to hold back. And to realize that mankind inflicts these torments on itself, not God. When we reach out to the Divine, He reaches back.
Through charity and genuine caring we can spread the love. And through prayer we can ask the Divine to assist us to help those who have not been lucky enough to experience the love they needed to become balanced and confident citizens.
So the answer to this nightmare is to love. Just as Jesus did. To be kind and charitable and help our neighbour. Be friendly to the lonely. Share our time, not just our money. Pray for the homeless. Pray for those who live in constant fear, to be comforted. And when you can, be the comforter. Pray for those in war-torn countries. Pray for the leaders of our world to open their eyes and do the right thing.
Pray for peace.
Share the love with yourself. Give yourself a hug every night and every morning. Look in the mirror and tell yourself what a wondrous gift you are to the world and to your family (even if they don’t appear to realize it). You can even give yourself a kiss in the mirror.
Then go out and put a smile on your face. Be kind to the person who is checking your groceries. Ask them how they are? And wait to hear their answer. Thank the teller at the bank for their good work. Smile at your neighbour. Put your cell phone down and look around you. Talk to your friends and parents and other relatives, in person, the way we did not so long ago. Hug and kiss your children. And whenever you have to discipline them, remember to say you love them before you start into the problem at hand. Never go to bed without telling your spouse and children that you love them. And start the day with a kiss and a hug.
Let God know you love Him. Let Him know how important He is in your day. Everyday.
Spread the love around. For it’s the answer to our time.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
The Golden Thread
During RCIA talks this week, the topic of our individual importance came up. We referenced, “It’s a Wonderful Life!” with Jimmy Stewart and how every single person affects all the people around them in both positive and negative ways.
We are our parent’s children and our children’s parents. Without us, those two roles would not exist and all the benefits and trials of those relationships would never happen.
We are our friend’s friend, and they are ours. We are aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and sometimes, orphans, raised without knowledge of any of those others, but nevertheless, affecting many, many individuals as we grow in our own life.
I’ve had dark nights of the soul where my view of my own life was reduced to the belief that I was totally valueless and unimportant. But in those moments of despair, I remembered my cat, Joshua, whom I had rescued off the street, a starving little lad of about eight months, who I realized would be homeless if I took my own life, and so I clutched him to my heart, and held on to my role as his mother, something certainly valuable in his eyes.
When my nephew became suicidal, lost in the chaos of his family’s issues, I begged him to just remember how much I loved him; that he was the son I never had, and to always remember how absolutely devastated I would be if he died. I had had numerous miscarriages and considered myself lucky and blessed to have him placed in my world.
Knowing that I was so attached to him, he settled down and we were able to come through—what could have been a tragic nightmare—with a positive ending.
We aren’t alone in this world, not physically and not spiritually. We are each intrinsically woven together in a tapestry of human interaction. We each offer a different hue to the weaving of our lives.
If one thread, one colour, is pulled out, the hole is instantly obvious and the fabric’s design is ruined.
I believe when God plans our lives, He starts with a beautiful picture as His goal, and then puts each of us into the loom of that creation, hoping we will make choices that get us to His dream.
As we journey along this Lenten road, do not despair when the obstacles in your way seem insurmountable. Do not view yourself as unworthy or unnecessary to others.
Let go of your despair and remember you are part of a greater picture; part of the lives of numerous individuals, both known and unknown, with whom you have crossed paths. The obstacles in your life simply change the shade of your threads, often making them even more beautiful and important to the finished product.
Pray to the Lord that He will enhance the colour of your life, so that you may brighten the lives of everyone you meet and thus improve the glory of His design.
Be the golden threads within the weave.
“O Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble!”
I was raised in a home where one child struggled to make it through school—not because of lack of smarts, but because of the system—and the other was able to achieve high grades with minimal effort. I was the second one.
Unfortunately, the classes to help the struggling student, which are everywhere today, and counselling to assist the parents in dealing with the situation, were not around. And so, my parents dealt with it in their own way. They offered minimal praise for my accomplishments—not wanting to hurt their other child—and maximum praise for my sibling’s.
As a result, I grew up feeling like a complete failure, struggling to please anyone and everyone but always feeling incapable, unloved and unwanted. These self-esteem issues led me down a path into personal problems in almost all my relationships, and any career goals, and left me with the feeling that I could never be anyone of importance at all.
Through the years, I’ve managed to counteract most of those feelings with hours and hours and hours of therapy and self-examination. As the years have gone on, I’ve learned an awful lot about life and acquired many skills, some through the assistance of others, and some simply self-taught. As a result, my confidence level in these fields is pretty strong. But sometimes this causes problems.
Because of the work I’ve had to go through to get myself to where I am today, I sometimes feel pride creeping into my body. While I don’t think pride in one’s accomplishments is necessarily a bad thing, ‘arrogant’ pride is. And that’s what I ( and I think many others) have to watch out for. Confidence is one thing. Arrogance is another.
Confident pride is okay. It’s a self-pat on the back for a job well done. Arrogant pride can sometimes sound Ike boasting, and it can even seek to put others down to make oneself feel even better.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.”
When one contemplates that in this context, those slips into arrogance speak of my childhood, youth and young adulthood, right up to my parents’ deaths, where my empty, lost soul reached out through boasting to feel any sense of value or confidence in my otherwise hollow world. And so I was trying to convince myself that I was worthy, something I didn’t feel at all.
Confident pride came along very slowly. It happened through study, the direction of others and seeming ‘chance’. But there never really is ‘chance’, is there? Nothing happens without the help of God. Nothing.
At this stage of my life, I realize confident pride is really my reward for paying attention to the roadsigns and angels whom God placed around me to neutralize my childhood situation.
And so now, it’s time I turned that more and more into humility, which is its spiritual counterpart. For there would be no accomplishments if I had not listened to God’s direction as I journeyed along the rocky road of my life. No success at all.
As Lent tightens its belt around us, take a look at your life, and how you respond to your successes. Do you sometimes find yourself slipping into arrogant pride, boasting of ‘your’ success? Or do you realize that God has had a hand in all that you have achieved, leading you along, carrying you over the obstacles and cheering you on as you ran the race toward success?
On this day, examine your humility level. If you are proud of your achievements, stop and give thanks to the One who got you to the podium of your success. Turn your pride into humility and get down on your knees and thank God for the greatness of His gifts and assistance in your life.
For without Him, you would never have achieved your goals.
Lenten Contemplations: Day Thirteen
Turn Off The TV
I remember the old days, long before video games, social media, the computer, and colour television, and for that matter, before the TV shows were really even discernible. There were actually only two or three stations and the shows were regularly barely visible on our TV screen. And so, we only watched television once in a while.
Instead, we talked, played outside, wrote letters and physically mailed them, hand wrote our homework, played card or board games, played musical instruments, did stuff with our family and friends inside and outside, gardened, went for walks, did crafts, sewed our own clothes, listened to music on the HiFi, or just sat and contemplated life, doing absolutely nothing.
It was actually a way more peaceful life. Less stress. More got done.
Then the mechanical world took over, the world of the ‘future’, a world of computers, email, twitter, facebook, instagram, messaging, texting, cell phones, selfies, TV with hundreds of stations yelling at us from walls in our homes and walls on buildings, video-games, GMO-d food sprayed with every insect-killing, bee-killing (and probably human killing) substance known to man, and our days got more and more complicated and hectic and stressful.
I’ve decided this Lent, to give up some aspects of this modern world and go back in time. I’m going to write letters and mail them using the Post Office, start doing crafts again, re-learn to sew my own clothes, turn off the ‘idiot box’ (the TV as my mother termed it), just listen to music, or, just sit in silence, and try to find some peace. And write more, not just edit other people’s work.
For Lent this year, seek to give up the overwhelming oppression of the modern age, and return to simplicity in your life. It might be easier than you think.
Just close your eyes and remember your early years, or think about your parent’s or grandparent’s days. Then step back into the past.
Seek simplicity. Seek peace.
In peace, you will find the Voice of God. Let Him be your guide to a less stressful life.