About Goats

In the parable of the sheep and goats, we are told that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, all the nations will be gathered before him, and he’ll separate everybody from one another on his right and left, like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Then he lists the things that landed them among either the sheep or the goats, and the interesting thing is the list is exactly the same, except team sheep did the things he listed and team goats did not.

The thing about goats is this: They don’t know they’re goats. They go about their daily lives thinking they know who they are and where they stand in God’s eyes. They go to church almost every week, and they remember to say a prayer when they need something. They give their old clothes to Planet Aid and might even put a few bucks in the big red kettle at the Holidays to, you know, help out the needy. But, they don’t get up close and personal with it. They don’t act as if their life depends on it. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my father in heaven wants.” What God wants is for us to “love Him with all our hearts, our minds, our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself.”

What makes us sheep or goats is whether or not we are willing to show kindness to the person on the street corner holding a cardboard sign, to buy them a “Happy Meal” or a bottle of water, or warm coat to wear when it’s below freezing outside. It’s whether or not we’re willing to stike up a conversation with someone we dont know, but looks like they could use a friend, and perhaps buy them a coffee, or whether we find time to spend with someone who is ill, diabled or in prison. It’s about our actions, about having compassion on those around us, about helping the poor schmuck lying in the ditch, robbed and half beaten to death, instead of passing by on the other side of the street, so we can feel justified in our inaction, because, you know, we don’t really need to get involved with all that drama anyway!

God lists the attributes that make us sheep in his eyes. He tells us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit the prisoner, not because he wants to show us how to save ourselves – His grace and His mercy are sufficient for our salvation – but because it’s what He would do. Lutheran theologian and Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God turns toward the very places from which humans turn away,” and it occurs to me that when we do these things, it’s not so much about loving those in need, but about loving God by our interactions with them. We do them to show God how much we love and care for Him, and in so doing, we automatically love our neighbor as ourselves.

~SLM

What Do You Find?

It seems that the whole world in incensed and offended these days. We see all that is insulting and rude, all that is vile and insensitive, and everywhere you turn you hear about how this thing or that is wrong. But the truth is this: It’s not what others say or do that really sets us off, but how we perceive what they say and do, what we think about it.
One thing I know about humans is that we are seekers. We are continually searching, for a good deal, a new idea, a better way, or for something more. We can’t help it, it’s in our nature, it’s how God created us. And something else I know, whether we realize it or not, we ALWAYS find what we looking for. So my question is this: What do you seek, and more importantly, what do you find?
We are told in Matthew 7:7 to “seek and you will find,” but I don’t think we really take the time to understand what is meant by this. We think it means that if we seek God, we will find Him, and this is certainly true, but it’s more complex than this, more intricate. When we are told to “seek and you will find,” we are being tutored in a school of thought, which encompasses an entire universe of possibilities and what we make of them. It is both an instruction and an admonition, and the surest way to know just what it is we are seeking is to examine what we find. It’s an instruction, because it tells us that to be happy, we must seek, and it’s a warning, because it tells us that we must be mindful of what we look for in others and the world around us, how we perceive the events of our life. You see, what we seek is evidenced by what we find, and what we tell others we have found, also tells them what we have sought. If we find discord and strife, hatred and racism, disrespect and inconsideration, we have been seeking it, and likewise, if we find joy and delight, honor and integrity, love and compassion, these are the things we have also sought.

~SLM

What Now We Harvest

Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing in the world, focusing on the harvest. It’s so easy to get mired down in the drama of everyday life, to get our feelings hurt, if things don’t go exactly as we want them to, and that’s when the temptation to scatter just any old seeds is the strongest.  It’s so much easier to put others down, to puff up our chests with self-righteous indignation for an imagined slight or insult. Matthew 7:8 tells us that whatever we seek we will find, so if we are looking for indignation, we’ll find it, if we’re looking for hate, we’ll find that, too, but, by the same token, of we seek love and compassion, that’s what we find.

It’s so easy to criticize others, to hold them accountable to a standard that we ourselves haven’t the discipline or courage to live by. We are told, “Do not judge, or you, too, will be judged in the same manner that you have judged, and with the same measure that you have used,”(Matthew 7:1-2.) Yet, that doesn’t stop us from looking down on them, from judging them for not leading the exemplary lives that we ourselves are unable to lead. We are, indeed, all hypocrites, aren’t we? We feign outrage when someone else acts in precisely the manner we do. We wail and lament that we find no respect, no honor, no happiness or love, all the while forgetting those seeds we scattered so carelessly, so imprudently – what now we harvest.

~SLM

The Course We Choose

Sometimes in our daily lives certain events lead us to contemplation, and this week those events have lead me to the first few verses in Matthew 7.  Verses 1-2 say, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” and this got me to thinking…

Why is it so easy for us to see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye, and yet we totally ignore the plank in our own? And why do we even feel compelled to point it out?  We readily see the faults of others and rarely see our own. Why do we expect others to live up to the standards that we ourselves are not disciplined enough to achieve, and isn’t pointing out to others what we perceive to be their faults another way of judging them?  We are not on the other side of that fence; we don’t know what has happened over there, or what has been brought to fruition as a result of the happenings.

Matthew 6:37 says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” What if we just let others be who they are without condescension, without arrogance, and without disrespect. What if we really did love each other as we would be loved? What if we took as much time and trouble to point out to ourselves where we are lacking, spending our energy improving ourselves through meditation, prayer, self-awareness and self-control, instead of trying to perfect others by criticizing, scorning, belittling and ridiculing them?

It’s mind-boggling to me how, at times, it can be so difficult for us to accept responsibility for ourselves. We look to others, to outside sources, in any direction except in the mirror.  We want to blame someone or something for the situation that we find ourselves in, and we never even consider that the reason we find ourselves where we are is because of the choices we have made. We choose the direction, we navigate the waters, and we find ourselves in precisely the place we’ve been headed to all along. Even if we aren’t exactly aware of how we’ve come to this pass, one thing’s for certain,we didn’t take the other road, we took this one, and we are on the course we choose.

James 2:13 tells us, “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. “ Living a wise life is about being lifted up, about lifting others up, about striving for a higher vibration – the vibration of love and patience. We cannot change others, only ourselves, and it’s our perspective that either makes a prisoner of us, or sets us free.

~SLM