Everything Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook this quotation by the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, and for some reason, I felt compelled to reply – the post and reply follow:

The Post;

jung

The reply;

Sally Mitschke Then feed your soul, love yourself and forgive yourself as you would do for all of these, for we are all imperfect beings striving to grow into the best versions of ourselves.

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This is not to say, go ahead and make excuses for yourself, but to understand that even though we make mistakes, take a wrong turn, or do things that, in retrospect, we’re not too proud of, we still need to nourish our souls, to feed them with wisdom and truth, with compassion and faith, with “good vibes” and friendship. We need, also, to give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, to recognize that we all have value, and that what we must do is “love” (as in accept) ourselves, everything about ourselves, the great and the not so great.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11, which states,   “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  We are each a beautiful work of art; an abstract painting that changes with distance and light, a piece of clay being molded by the loving hands of a master potter, a woven cloth of individual threads, our strengths and weaknesses, embroidered together in such a way as to produce an exquisite tapestry of life, of kindness, of fallibility, and of love.

~SLM

Be Kind…, tenderhearted, forgiving…, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

forgiveness1

A Grateful Heart: My Prayer

Gratitude is on my mind today. I’ve been wondering why we find it so hard to just be thankful. When did gratitude go out of style, become so uncool? Every day we are so “ate up” with what we think is wrong in our lives, with what we think is insulting or offensive, that we can’t see past the negatives to the abundance of positives.

We obscure our lives with so much wanting, confusing desire with need, that sometimes, it seems, we forget this uncomplicated truth: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” We live in a time that is unprecedented in all of recorded history. We literally have almost anything we desire at our fingertips, at any given moment, and while there seems to be great disparity between those who “have” and those who “have not,” even the poorest among us still enjoy a standard of living greater than all but a handful of other countries.

We are blessed, more than any other people at any other time, and the simple act of counting your blessings makes all the difference in the world to your attitude about life, turning your attention away from the “don’t” haves and toward the “do” haves. Even on our worst days, when we we’ve gotten a rotten diagnosis, or we don’t know how we’re ever going make it another day, we still have more than we came with. We can still “count it all joy, when we meet trials of various kinds, for we know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness,  letting steadfastness have its full effect, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  And, we can still “give thanks in everything: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.”

So, here’s a prayer for a grateful heart:

Instill in me a grateful heart that I may know Your ways and live by them. That I may be thankful for all Your gifts, even when those gifts appear to me as trials, for it is through adversity that You draw me nearest to You, that You teach me of Your faithfulness and love, that You show me the meaning of perseverance, of trust, of faith.

Instill in me a grateful heart that I may see humanity through Your eyes. That I may be thankful for Your love, Your compassion, even when that love feels miles away and I cannot see it, knowing that each person I see faces the same fears, insecurities, and battles as I, for it is Your love which connects us all, which teaches us of hope, of tolerance, of compassion.

Instill in me and grateful heart that I may walk with you in love and joy. That I may be thankful for the tranquility of Your presence, even when I’m surrounded by chaos, and strife is the theme of the day, trusting that Your yoke is easy, that Your guidance will see me through, that I may find solace with a prayer on my lips and peace in my heart.

Amen

~ SLM

1 Timothy 6:7, James 1:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:18

What Love is: A Litmus Test

It seems that the world is upside down right now, that everything is wrong side out and backwards. We want the madness to stop, but we’re at a loss as to how. We say we want to get along, that we want peace and love, but from the virulence and frequency of the bombastic and self-righteous screeds that are posted every day to facebook, twitter and any number of “social” forums, it is clear that most of us have no idea of what we’re doing or why. We want desperately for things to go differently, to head in a new direction, the direction of unity, but it seems we’ve lost our way. We don’t know anything about kindness, tolerance and love, or if we had ever learned, we’ve forgotten, developed a collective case of CRS (can’t remember shit), as if modern life has divorced us from knowing, understanding exactly what it means to love.

So how do we know what love is? It sounds like a simplistic question, but is it really? We think we know what it is; we think love is about the sentiments reflected in a popular song, quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, a warm and fuzzy feeling about our friends and family, or a heart shaped emoji we use to react to our friend’s posts. But, love is so much more than these, greater than our trivialities. It is the one thing that never fails, and is perhaps the most challenging feet we could attempt in our lives. And, we do know what it looks like, because we’ve been given a litmus test for love, a laundry list by which to check our actions. The test goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We must test everything against this standard, continually asking ourselves; is it patience or is it pride, is it kindness or cattiness, is it truth or rumor parading as truth, does it persistently hope for the best or is it flip and conceited, is if faith-filled or self-filled? If the words we speak (or type) cannot pass this test, if they are unkind, conceited, ill-mannered, selfish, proud, a diatribe of what’s wrong, we are not speaking from a place of love.

Here’s what else we’ve been told about love:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

If we are jealous, act impatiently, are brutish, or delight in situations that prompt us to say “ain’t karma a bitch,” we do not know love. If we take it upon ourselves to “get even” with those who would do us harm, we are not coming from a place of love, but of darkness and hate. What then, do we do with hate? There is no reasoning with it, any brute force or mighty action that can stop it, because hate is not the cure for itself. There is only one antidote to hate, only one power mighty enough to stop it in its tracks: Love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

If we love one another, we don’t give up on each other. We aren’t gleeful or smug when evil things happen to others, even when they are our enemies. We continue to hope for the very best with all the patience in the universe, because that is what we have been called to do, what we’ve been commanded to do,  and the example we are expected to set as a follower of Christ.

~SLM

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it appropriate for this post – thank you Danny Gokey for this beautiful song!

Do as I Say…

Funny how this seeking for a higher meaning works, just when you think you’ve got something figured out, your turn your perspective a fraction of a degree, and suddenly it’s a whole new landscape.  There are certain verses that seem to return again and again, to show you that what you thought you knew was, in reality, only a small sampling of a greater truth, a greater equation, and that’s why I’ve landed back on Isaiah 29:13, which states, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,”  It’s not just about being estranged from God, but also about duplicity; about our persistent habit of commingling words and actions, our false logic of substitution in which we assume our words and actions are interchangeable, and our expectation that others do what we cannot ourselves do.

We can say all the right things in flowery prose and elegant verse. We can talk our fool heads off about what is right, what is fair, what we think others should do, or be willing to do. We can be as socially acceptable and politically correct as the best little soldier out there, but the true test of where we live is in the heart, and while we can say anything, and oft times we actually do, our actions are the reflection of our thoughts and beliefs. The heart is where action resides. If we say we are against bullying, but bully others in order to prove they are bullies, then we become what we call, we use our lips to prove our “rightness” while showing what lives in our hearts: a bully. We can talk of peace and cooperation, we can take others to task for what they say or don’t say, but if our actions don’t back up our lips, we are nothing but liars, hypocrites.  We can talk a big game, but when it comes right down to it, our hearts reveal our true intent, our true thoughts and feelings, our true core beliefs, and how we act speaks to what is in our hearts.

Words and actions are not the same; they do not bear the same weight. While words can be illuminating, clarifying, and insightful, they can also be deceiving, misguided and false. Actions on the other hand, are like a mirror; they merely reveal and reflect who we are in our heart of hearts.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)

~SLM

Sticks and Stones: The Wisdom of Minding Your Mouth

Sticks and stones may break my bones…but do we really believe names can’t hurt us? Our words, the things we say, can affect our lives in ways we can never imagine. Regardless of what the old adage claims, broken bones, though they be painful, eventually heal. But, careless or misplaced words, whether single syllabled or compound, are another story altogether. They can leave deep and life-long wounds, and as we are reminded in James 3:5-6 (MSG), “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.” Once the [word] genie is out, there’s no going back, you can’t recall it like a bad tweet, once it hits the air, the damage is done. Words are powerful tools that can open doors or lock them, unite nations or divide them, build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. “By our speech, we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell,” James continues.

Minding your mouth is a pretty big thing, when it comes to living a wisdom-filled life. In fact, shooting off our mouths is one of the biggest failings of humanity. We’re in love with idle talk and especially our own opinions. We prattle on and on without much thought about what we say, as if our words have no real meaning, and are only background noise that is easily dismissed.  We fail to see that the freeness with which we spew our every random thought, with which we are so righteous about having the “right” to say, is not always right. Instead, we throw it out there without consideration, getting so caught up in our “right to free speech” that we forget our words are alive, they have impact, force.

The unguarded tongue is more dangerous than any suicide bomber could ever be. While he may cause us physical pain, loss and suffering, an explosion of words can do far worse damage, it can break our spirit, can set us on a downward spiral of degradation and despair that only God can help and heal. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 141:3, and rightly so, since it’s what we say that saves or convicts us, that matters most. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

~SLM

The Narrow Path

Lately, I’ve been chewing on the book of Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve’s epic fail in particular, considering what it says about human nature, and what wisdom can be gleaned from the account.  My nephew thinks I’m crazy to be fixed on a “silly old myth that doesn’t have much bearing on life in the modern world.” But, is that in fact true? Have we really “evolved” beyond a tale of choices and consequences, of responsibility and self-examination?

If you think about it, it’s really much more than a “silly old myth” about a man and woman, and a snake; it’s about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices, choices that, even now, in our modern “evolved” world, are presented to us every day of our lives in a myriad of forms. It’s also about taking responsibility for our choices, owning up to the mistakes we make, rather than pointing the finger at someone else.

In the Book “The Road Less Traveled,” psychologist M. Scott Peck, says, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity.” Blaming others for our behavior is nothing new, we’ve been doing this since time began. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and a quick look at the any newsfeed suggests that we haven’t changed much since. Dr. Peck goes on to say that when we blame it means “we then give away our power to that entity.” So Adam gave his power to Eve, and she in turn gave hers to the snake, absolving all, save the snake, of any wrongdoing, right? Not at all. Contrary to what we think we are doing, when we blame others for our actions, we aren’t exercising our “get out of jail free” cards, we are actually giving our power to those we blame, assigning the control over our lives to an outside force, making us hopeless, helpless, a victim.

Eve made a choice to eat the fruit and serve it to her husband. Adam made a choice to eat the fruit, even though he, too, knew it was forbidden. We all make choices, and we can choose whether or not to partake, yet if we do, we must know that there will surely be consequences. We can eat of the fruit, or not, but that road, if we choose to go down it, is wide and well-traveled, and where it leads? Well, that’s a different matter all together. And, making our way back? Well, as we have been told, “Small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

The narrow road is fraught with difficulties and challenges, because our desire to back up, to have a do-over, our resolve in the matter, will be tested again and again. Speaking truth in the face widespread dishonesty and doing what’s right, when no one else does, is not easy. Accepting our shortcomings, taking responsibility for them and resolving to change is harder still. Yet this story challenges us to confront the difficulties we face in life, to own up to our faults, to look for that “narrow” path. In truth, life is difficult, it’s unfair, no matter which path we take, but the difference is this: The narrow path teaches us so much more about ourselves, about the nature of reality, of God, and how we fit into the cosmic plan; it gives us perspective and teaches us perseverance, and trust, and leads us to life, and to God’s peace.

~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

Who Is To Blame, Anyway?

Here’s what’s been stuck in my head for the last several weeks: 1 John 1:8 which states “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us.”  We say these words as often as we recite liturgy, yet we seldom take time to analyze them, to really understand what they mean, what we say by reciting them.

When we refuse to admit that we are sinners, we are basically saying that we are blameless, and we can do this in a myriad of ways. We can reject our own guilt, we can deny that we are wrong in our thinking or our actions, or we can hold ourselves guiltless for the events of our lives. If we claim to be blameless, that an action we take, or even the result our actions, the reaction, is not our fault, then what we really claim is that we are without sin. It’s a splendid falsehood, making excuses for our behavior, claiming that we can’t help ourselves, but to act in a certain manner, in irrational and self-obsessive ways, figuring that if we lie to ourselves enough times, the lie will become truth. It’s so easy to make excuses, to lead ourselves astray, to give ourselves a “get out of jail free” card by twisting our perception; by looking at it wrongly and telling ourselves that we are justified in our delusions, because the situation was fostered upon us rather than created by us, or the result of what we have done.

Holding ourselves blameless is the ultimate avoidance of responsibility, of saying that we are not the liar, the cheater, the deceiver, the thief; we are instead the victim or our behavior, not the perpetrator of it.  So, who is to blame, anyway? If it’s not us, who? 1 John 1:10 tells us this: “if we say (claim) we have not sinned, we contradict His Word and make Him out to be false and a liar.” And, for this reason, we cannot have the truth in us, because we must accept responsibility for what we say to and how we treat each other, if we intend to lead truthful and authentic lives.

~SLM

Deuteronomy #4: The Battle

Sometimes the “real” battle is in our minds; it’s the argument we have within ourselves to either take a step toward our destiny or shrink away from it. We are at war with our thoughts in a continual struggle between the voices of condemnation, doubt, and fear on the one hand, or confidence, encouragement, and love on the other. A conflict between who we think we are and who we were created to be. We have to have this battle before we can ever know what experiences we may encounter, what dangers or blessings lie ahead, shaping us into who we may become.

It’s really just a matter of making up our minds. We have to decide whether we’ll go along with the pursuits of this world, or set out intentionally to follow God, holding fast to His promises, walking in all His ways. Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 6 that we should make God’s ways a part of who we are; that we should not become devoted to any of the other “gods” those around us worship.  This is not an easy road to take, especially with all the distractions, traps really, we are presented with in our daily lives. Moses also says “to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength,” and that we should be ever aware of God’s gifts to us, that we should never forget where we have been and how we have been delivered into our “promised” land. We must live in this world, but we dare not be of it, and every day we must fight, stand-up to the temptations we face, and trust that God’s way is, at the end of the day, the best way to live, the only choice that makes sense in a world that’s too wrapped up in itself, too self-obsessed to even care about its neighbor, let alone to love its neighbor as itself.

As David writes in Psalm 15:

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,

who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,

who does no wrong to a neighbor,

and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person

but honors those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;

who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

will never be shaken.

~SLM

Our Way

Sometimes everything in life seems to be such a fight, a struggle, when nothing seems to go the way you’ve planned it, and obstacles start flying toward you faster than you can duck. When the shit hits the fan, it’s so easy to get off course, get depressed, and wonder just what the hell God is trying to say. It’s funny how we automatically assume that God wants to thwart our plans, to knock us down and show us His displeasure, but is this really God’s way, or is it our way of looking at it?

In Mark 8:34-36, Christ tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”  And, it occurs to me (in the midst of my own struggles) that maybe the obstacles, the road blocks, are really God’s way of checking our faith, of testing our resolve to play it out in God’s time and in God’s way, giving us the chance to lay down our selfish desires and follow.

~SLM