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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.
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.
Lenten Contemplations: Day Twelve
Let Go and Let God
A friend of mine is dying. He’s in his eighty-first year, and was very active up until a few months ago when he suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, attempted to take his own life.
I was absolutely shocked. Stunned. It made no sense to me and to anyone else.
He’s been ‘in care’ ever since and is hallucinating now constantly from dementia. He will never leave ‘care’ and now that he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it won’t be long.
It is a sad state of affairs. His wife has been in longterm care for years and his brother very recently passed away.
When my husband and I went to see him in the hospital, he knew us, but he was living out some scenario in his mind that had no basis in reality. At one point, he expressed that the police were outside with a group of people, and waiting to arrest him.
I tried to reassure him that it wasn’t true and we even took him around, showing him there was no one there. But he insisted they were coming, because he was “guilty”.
“Guilty of what?” I asked.
“You don’t know!” he insisted. “But they’re coming for me.”
Guilt—another debilitating emotion. My mother could lay a mountain of guilt on me with a tiny glare. It was amazing how rotten one can feel in seconds when guilt rears its ugly head.
My friend revealed some of his ‘believed’ guilt to us after we pried it out of him, but I suspect there is way more in there bothering him. And I’m not sure I can get him to let it out.
Guilt can destroy you. It can eat away at your soul for years, until it finally bursts out into the world around you, imposing its face upon your soul, heart, emotions, mind, and body. By then it might be almost too late to do anything about it.
We are a multi-faceted creature, and we are our happiest when all our levels of sentience are functioning smoothly and cohesively. But just like the Princess could feel the pea under the mounds and mounds of mattresses, guilt can start like a tiny pea and evolve into something way more harmful, where it can do more than just disturb our sleep, it can send us over the brink into insanity, or bring us to death’s door with illness. Our un-ease can bring on dis-ease.
During Lent this year, take some time to examine your soul. Are you okay? Really okay? Or are you aware of an old act of poor judgement rearing its ugly head?
If so, move fast. Get the pea out from under the mattress. Go talk to your pastor or priest, a best friend, a parent, or call a help line. But, talk to someone. Get it off your heart and soul and conscience before it’s too late.
God is all-loving and all-forgiving. Tell Him your problems, your troubles and your fears.
Ask for His forgiveness and let Him know you won’t do it again, but you need to release your guilt to Him. After all, who wants to carry all that guilt around with them, anyway. And then, do the hardest thing of all—let it go! Let it go, and let God take it away.
Remember, Jesus bore our sins on the Cross. We don’t have to live out endless karma, paying for a lifetime of mistakes. It’s not necessary. The debt has been paid. Just believe, and then accept His offer of salvation.
This Lent, let go of your guilt and be reconciled with God.
You won’t regret it.
Lenten Contemplations: Day Eleven
Give Up Your Past
The Friday evening Stations of the Cross have begun at our church. We celebrate the Mass first, and then different groups within the congregation follow one of our priests and join him in reciting different parts of the Stations. It is very moving.
There is a very mournful hymn sung during each movement of the congregants as they follow our Lord to His ultimate sacrifice.
I find it mesmerizing and horrifying all in one. I recall my own life, afterward, and I see nothing in comparison. But I know others would disagree, as I have dealt with different major trials which have changed me in character, mindset, and even appearance.
I guess that’s part of this, isn’t it, the change these events create in us. Will we gain or lose after such milestones?
When Jesus appeared to others after His resurrection, to some He was unrecognizable, even by folks whom He had known for a long time. He had changed. He had progressed to His true goal. He was transformed.
The question remains then, have your life events transformed you? Have they made you a better person? Have you progressed and grown through your challenges, or are you the ‘same old, same old’?
Let Jesus’ example guide you in your life. Do not give up when the obstacles seem overwhelming. Progress through them, knowing our Lord has paved the way with His examples of courage and strength.
Let His Light lead you through the darkness. Let your future be one of salvation. Be transformed by the hard knocks of your life. Don’t try to hang onto them and don’t dwell on them. Let your past be just that, your past.
Life is about moving forward in your journey, evolving and growing, and transforming, as you move along.
For Lent this year, give up your past.