On the Military Aspects of Christian Spirituality: A Memorial Day Reflection

On this Memorial Day weekend, when we remember and celebrate the ultimate sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces, I’d like to briefly reflect on the military aspects of our Christian spiritual journey to God’s Kingdom.  In remembering the myriad of American lives lost this holiday as we live now in general peace and stability, my heart feels much as it does on All Saints Day when the Church remember all those who have spiritually fought by loving and serving until death for the Kingdom of God… …heavy.  In this heart space of grieving the loss of our natural and spiritual soldiers, my simple goal today is to “grieve and mourn in hope and faith,” by highlighting as best as this life-long civilian can, what we as spiritual soldiers, can take and apply spiritually from the military lives of those we remember this weekend.

From the sacrifice of their lives, perhaps the most important point to remember this weekend is that we are in a spiritual war and our daily lives and relationships are the actual battlefield!  Ours is not just a natural war in which our physical lives, land and children can be lost – no, it’s far more than that!  This is a spiritual war in which our individual souls can be lost for all of eternity!  That means there is definitely a Good and a bad side: a holy and an evil side, our God and the evil one… Know also that choosing a side is unavoidable; your life choices and works will ultimately declare and reveal to all which side you chose.

In speaking about an evil one or enemy or adversary, who or what is the enemy and our opposition in this spiritual war?  According to the orthodox Christian spiritual mystical tradition, we have not just one but three adversaries to master in our pilgrimage towards the Kingdom: the world, Satan and ourselves.  Each person is born historically into a specific time and place and within an existing imperfect culture that stamps them with a specific way of thinking and seeing life that can challenge them form ultimately acquiring the gift of salvation: i.e. the selfishness, pride and greed that American capitalism can present as ‘normal and healthy’ to Christians.  Definitely a major challenge to anyone’s spiritual maturation, will be accepting the challenge to investigate, critique and to changes any negative cultural imprintings that they may have uncritically accepted during their formative years. Welcome to just one aspect of mastering ‘the world…’

By faith in revelation, we spiritually acknowledge that there are those in God’s creation that have chosen to militarily align themselves against God’s will and purposes, and that they too have a leader.  Therefore, in our various spiritual missions like family life and at work, we must pray and work so as to not be deceived into working for evil plans or purposes that are veiled as natural or spiritual goods. Be mindful, since God will never use evil methods or means to achieve God’s End, God’s will for us is also to NEVER to kill another, to steal from or lie to another, etc. to achieve a stated good…  Just as we know by faith that our victory in Christ is already won, we also know by faith that not all will be there with us in God’s Kingdom. Therefore, we must do all we can to master these three areas evil in our lives and to not actively participate in evil that we may with the Saints, reach our victory with is heaven.

In reference to the mastering our very selves… Each one of us struggles to love and to be, as God has called us to be,with ourselves and others daily.  We also struggle to be who and what we are called to be for each unique community that we are sent to.  Because of these struggles, none can stand before God and claim to have loved and served Him consistently and in the manner that God has always desired of us… Yes, all have fallen short in loving and serving as we have been called…  As we mature, we can learn how to kill off and/or to distance ourselves from the unhealthy life aspects and relationships that are drawing us towards death. This is that life long process of learning how to `die to self’ that we may live

          As already alluded to, in any war the combatants are defined and can be identified by their commonly share purpose for engaging in the war and also, by the very methods and tools they use to engage the enemy. By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit given through baptism, spiritually active and ‘woke’ Christians use the spiritual tools of love and service in their spiritual ministry of war.  We do so, knowledgeable that one day we may even be invited to sacrifice our lives in this battle. American history reveals that in the natural military theatre, having superior firepower plus military methods coupled with a practical knowledge of the land and enemy are often the deciding factors in winning any battle or war. In applying these military principles to our spiritual war, how can any created being out prepare, maneuver or have more firepower and knowledge than God? Both common sense and simple faith reveals that the victory has already been won!!!

Finally, in remembering these military men and women’s lives, I am forced to acknowledge how their lives reflects one of planning, discipline and preparation like those of the Saints! In both lives we witness a military like need to plan and prepare – often down to nuts and bolts – in order to achieve one’s stated tasks.  Planning, discipline and preparation are virtues that military families live by and that the Saints always bring to their spiritual lives!!!  Their model of commitment to the community, a disciplined life, the willingness to personally study and to adopt a boot camp mentalityfor the long haul are all valuable virtues we can all adopt.  Like military personnel we too must humble ourselves and willfully train consistently in our personal spiritual boot camp, that we may serve – as called and when called – on our journey towards God’s Kingdom! \

Yes, that means building a dedicated prayer life and intimate relationship with God that’s grounded in faith, hope and a charity manifested as daily gratitude for life. Yes, that means starting just where you are now and continuing to read, pray and trying to live out the Scriptures daily. Yes, that means willfully ignoring the secular common sense principles offered culturally and willfully living by the spiritual principles set forth by God and Scripture – like actually tithing, taking a Sabbath rest with family, seeking to forgive in relationships when there appears nothing for us to gain, etc…

This Memorial Day weekend, please recommit – this day – to enlisting in and fighting for Jesus’ Church Militant!!! Amen.

Elevating Human Law and Nullifying God’s Law in Catholicism

Tuesday, the fifth week in ordinary time, we are presented with the Gospel from the seventh chapter of Mark, the first thirteen verses.  In this reading the Pharisees observed and critiqued Jesus and his disciples for not keeping the Jewish purification rituals of washing their hands before meals. Jesus’ initial response to their critique is grounded in an Isaian prophecy, “…this people honors me with their lips, but hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts…”

Jesus’ response respectfully acknowledges them as God’s appointed religious leaders vested with authority, however it also reveals how their unholy leadership has emphasized and modeled the letter of God’s Law to the masses, while willfully refusing to live from, model and to teach about the Spirit of God’s Law. Who are these religious leaders?

These are religious leaders who – whether in a sweet, motherly and moralistic or hard, drill sargent kind of way – will always reference and/or speak in terms of another’s faults, sins and struggles…  Though far from perfect themselves, they seem to be always “…straining out the gnats” in those they lead… For whatever reason – whether consciously Spirit led or not – their encounters with others often leaves those they serve with the sense of being a hopeless sinner who is stuck in one’s sin…

These are the religious leaders who will rarely, if ever, speak a positive word of commendation regarding another’s gifts, talents and history of accomplishments – especially if one’s history and individual expression of it runs counter to Church teaching and practices…  For whatever reason – when speaking to individuals or to communities like these, some religious leaders are incapable, unable and/or unwilling to leave others the Gospel: that is, STAMPED with the sense of being loved by God and living in God blessing as His children!!!

Unfortunately, the history of clerical Catholicism guilting and beating down the laity about sin, while elevating a specific aspect of the Catholic tradition above others, thereby nullifying the full effect of God’s law is legendary.  As an example, examine the Church’s recent history of  elevating ‘ABORTION’ to the sole place of sacred Pro Life primacy, so that now, other equally pressing issues like poverty, corruption, racism, sexism, etc. simply CAN NOT BE championed as a PRO LIFE issues also, despite the obvious reality that they are…

Unfortunately, this history focusing on the letter and ignoring the spirit of the law is ALSO an ongoing, lived reality in the spiritual and sacramental lives of many Catholics today.  Why, you ask? Simply because it is so often modeled by our religious leaders on the local level…

If you disagree, ask many ‘lay’ Catholics who dare to frequent the sacraments regularly… Let’s briefly examine how this reality manifests itself in the lives of practicing Catholics today…

As good an example an any, is the fact that any Catholic who receives Reconciliation outside of their home parish must also know that by doing so they are truly now taking the spiritual risk of playing sacramental ‘Russian roulette (ha, ha)!!!”  Why? Because on any given day, the priest they encounter may be an old-school, hardened and uncaring man who is unfortunately very willing and all to ready to give all entering  a priestly beat down about how radically bad their sins are – before then, begrudgingly giving them an absolution – as if it is HIS to give!!!

As a Eucharistic Minister and Catholic chaplain ministering in hospitals and nursing homes, in the past I have discussed with fellow chaplains who are also priests, the challenges that this reality presents as a Eucharistic minister. For instance, I meet those who, despite being in great pain and are in desperate need of receiving our Lord RIGHT NOW in the Sacrament, will outright refuse to receive Him Whom they desperately need, simply because I am a lay African merican Eucharistic minister, and not a priest…

Still, there are other ‘mature’ cradle Catholics of 70 or 80 years, who are simply unable to spiritually acknowledge how their present (perfect storm) context spiritually allows them to now bypass the standard one hour Eucharistic fast, and to feast on Him Whom they most need!!! In the face of their pride, the rules they were taught, their age compared to mine, their present fight in this their ‘second childhood in life,’etc. some simply can not come to receive Him Whom they need, and I can only offer them a brief period of Adoration and shared prayer…

It is so unfortunate and spiritually heart wrenching to encounter these children of God who suffer out of spiritual ignorance or immaturity, as they are often able see but not receive our Lord for some reason…  That reason often being, having a greater need to be clean, than to receive Him… Or as another soul once said, “…not having a true need to receive HIM, in order to be clean…”  That first desire is a need to address the letter of the law; the second is a desire that reflects both the Spirit of the law and an individual’s true heart felt need for God.

As I pray for these souls, I sometimes wonder who or what was that specific religious person, culture/family life or church community that mercilessly drilled home in this person’s past life, the absolute necessity of living out the letter of God’s law? I pray that their hearts may grow to be open to whomever God sends or however God sends grace now in their lives… I pray that they will meet that person who can model and show them, by God’s grace, how the letter’s true goal is to live out the Spirit of God’s law while still honoring the letter…

Jesus ends his response to the Pharisees in the Gospel by stating how they “…nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.”  This is an important point for Catholics to reflect on now a year into the pandemic, as we prepare for a second Lenten Pandemic Experience.  The past year of pandemic living coupled with the liturgical and sacramental changes that it has forced on our worship, should give us great reflection material to ponder as we prepare for this year’s observance of Lent – as if we have not been living it already!!!

My prayer is that in this second pandemic spring, Catholics and all Christians will begin the hard work of truly considering which traditions we should continue to pass on and those which we should discard and/or discontinue as believers…  May this last make-shift year of liturgical and sacramental life coupled with our ongoing global pandemic  realities, grant us the grace that comes via holy strugglin’ and  suffering, to lead our Catholic and all Churches  – both institutionally and on the ground level in the lives of believers – to begin this necessary work as we seek to truly live and proclaim the Gospel in love.

 Advent Preparation in the midst of a Pandemic? Are you Crazy!?!

Come to realize – through prayerful reflection – how this year’s COVID -19 struggles and challenges has functioned like a year long ADVENT season, preparing you to receive Jesus in some way this coming year…

After almost a year of grappling with this COVID 19 pandemic, many of even the most hardcore, devotional and conservative Catholics have been liturgically broken down – in their liturgical regularity of attending Mass, etc..  After a year like 2020, can you blame them?

Now weary and worn out from quarantining, yet seemingly still forced onward in this global ‘pandemic death march,’ many Catholics today are finding themselves simply too tired and weary to even give simple lip service to ‘ADVENT.’

Advent!? Really? With all that’s been going on, you think I’m gonna even play like I’m gonna try to ‘prayerfully enter into the Advent season’ this year???  Once again, really?  Can you blame anyone for simply, being human?

In ‘normal’ times perhaps ‘doing Advent’ seems and feels like the right thing to do at this time of year, in order to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in some new way … But this year not only feels and seems different, it actually is – VERY DIFFERENT!!!

We, the so called civilians of the world, have found ourselves on the daily, front line battle for life and death! 2020 came in quietly and in a sneaky way, secretly drafted the whole world into an unknown war with a viral enemy…

Since February, the whole world has been frantically fighting to literally stay alive – that is, to not die from a COVID-19 infection… We also been struggling to stay economically afloat… And also to address our non COVID-19 medical and family issues, etc..  And please, do not even mention, the ongoing struggle here in America to stay politically and democratically afloat as religiously conservative bigots and racists, empowered after four years of Trump’s hatred and evil, tried to steal an election and dismantle our democracy…

 

Because these are not normal times and 2020 was nothing even close to being a ‘normal’ year, I am asking all of those traditional and conservative Catholics – who may be worrying about or missing their regular and traditional Advent preparations – to reflectively think back over the year and to PRAYERFULLY answer this question for yourself…

“How has God prepared me to receive Jesus in some NEW way this coming year?”

Please, sit with this question awhile….   I doubt that after a year like THIS, you need any more preparation!

Prayerfully examine how God has challenged and changed you in this last year…

Take a moment to briefly list and write down on paper the ways you are NOW very different than the pre-pandemic person you were last Christmas…

What is it that you most want now in life?

Come to realize – through prayerful reflection – how this year’s COVID -19 struggles and challenges has functioned like a year long ADVENT season, preparing you to receive Jesus in some way this coming year…

Now, sit and briefly jot down or briefly make some notes about what FORM you really want to meet Jesus in this coming year…  The FORM you are hoping for this year’s Chrtistmas gift from God to materialize in…

Is it a a new job? An end to and old and beginning of a new relationship? A vocational move or a geographical move to a new city?

Prayerfully find what THAT is for you and ask God to, “Make it so, if it is His will” this coming year.  After a crazy year like 2020, REMEMBER – our Advent work and preparation is already done! 

 We simply need to prayerfully AND faithfully 1) name and then to 2) ask for THAT gift that God has been preparing us to receive in this coming year…

Have a Merry Christmas!!!

 

 

 

 

Why and How Christian Trumpsters can save face and vote for Biden…

Why Conservative Scripture based Christians and Catholics should vote for Biden.

In the face of the two recent political National Conventions, I would like to share my opinion about those ‘practicing’ Christians who are also staunch Trump supporters.  I would also like to make an argument showing how they can spiritually and practically ‘save face’ and switch their vote to Biden.   Most are older white Americans, who also generally claim to be religiously more conservative than most other Americans. I’ve heard and read their claim that their vote for Trump is in concert with God’s will.  Let me examine and refute this claim in light of scripture and then reveal how they can ‘save face’ before God and vote for Biden…

The Scriptures contain multiple examples of both good and bad religious and political leaders.  Sometimes they were ‘at odds’ with each other in the classic “good vs bad” fashion, both competing for the soul of the community (Israel).  In these instances, often one sowed good/God’s word like God’s prophets and the other, often selfish and Godless kings, sowed selfishness/evil…  There are other examples of false prophets leading the king and God’s people astray, just as there are also other stories of God’s people choosing to complicitly follow evil religious and political leaders against God’s chosen leaders.   In these stories, the outcome is almost always the same: a crushing defeat for Israel is the result…  Unfortunately, these are often the stories that our fellow conservative leaders in the faith fail to preach and to talk about…

The Word reveals, from Genesis on, how ‘the weeds and the wheat will be mixed until the harvest’ in each of our human communities – especially in our human institutions and leadership…  The Old Testament also witnesses to how the political and religious complicity, often motivated by greed and the need for power, over time will kill the soul and lead to the death of a community.  It should also be noted that in the scriptures, a  criteria for selecting a Godly leader often centers on whether that person’s life and work is grounded in and reflects Godly virtues.
Their virtues and Godly character must be openly witnessed to by their life, history and others in the community. In scripture, good leaders always reflected the character, disposition, virtues and love that was revealed and found in Jesus Christ. What can you, in good faith, find in Trump’s character, person, personal life or his leadership style that reflects ANYTHING of Jesus Christ?  If we apply this criteria to the presidential candidates, then based on their life’s work, personal character and the community witnesses regarding it, Biden easily trumps forty five…  That’s one scriptural vote for Biden.

Furthermore, arguably the most fundamental theme in scripture other that of God’s love is that of covenant – God offers us a covenant, and not a contract. We are called to love others and God in a covenant manner, not contractually. Contracts are made in suspicion, limits one’s responsibility, exchanges goods, forms business bonds and (claims to) break only the business relationship when they are broken (like a lease).  Simply put, a life that primarily relates to God and others contractually can not be or reflect a mature Christian life and model.

However, one who makes the choice and sacrifice to, by grace, live in their human relationships covenantally can successfully mature into and model Christian leadership.  Why? Because covenants are made with trust and grounded on promises not suspicion.  They are open ended and have unlimited responsibilities – like parents do with their children. Covenant give, exchange and bind people together forming kinship bonds, thus when they are broken often the persons involved are also broken (like in a marriage).

           Why choosing to live in covenant relationships with all is (or should be) obvious to for any Christian who would also like to be considered as a national and world leader… Note: that through His covenants, God is historically fathering a family. We have the opportunity to, by grace, be transformed into a divine brotherhood and sisterhood; a family of God. This is the l-o-n-g story line and the drama of the Bible that is being played out against and within the physical and natural span of individual human histories and communities – like here in America.

Please show me in his life or administration WHERE has Trump reflected Christian covenant living? Please don’t say in his marriage(s)…   Forty five’s life easily provides enough factual history with community support proving exactly the opposite – he lives contractually!!! When compared to Biden, Trump is truly ignorant of and cares nothing  – either personally or as president – for covenant living.  That’s one more for a total of two scriptural vote for Biden.

For orthodox Roman Catholics who proclaim the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of their faith, can we put politics aside for a second? Let me ask you, which presidential candidate’s life – both personally and professionally – most consistently reflects what you might call and understand as one of ‘Eucharistic living and sharing’ – giving oneself away?  What kinda oxygen are you breathin’ that allows you to even argue that Donald Trump lives Eucharistically? You should go to Reconciliation for that one – no joke!

          How in heaven can a practicing Roman Catholic, who truly understands that we are to live and become the personal and unique embodiments of grace in Christ to and for others, like we receive – living sacraments – choose Trump over Biden as the most sacramental candidate available? Really? That, is sacramentally confessable too, I guess… That’s one sacramental vote plus two scriptural votes for Biden compared to 45’s scriptural and sacramental zero.

Historically and scripturally, it was is in this kind of ongoing Trumpian reality – one that is greedy, selfish and is an unholy alliance of leadership in opposition to God’s will – that in part, provided the background and context for God to send and give us His Son Jesus!!! The Scriptures reveal how evil leadership and autocratic use of institutions – an historically reoccurring CULTURE OF DEATH – almost always translates not only into the unholy deaths of oppressed individuals, but also of whole communities and nations… It also reveals how even Mother Earth reals from and is destroyed by the reality human sin, a simple message often forgotten from the story of the Flood that is applicable today in our Ecological Need to Go Green…

As the scriptures reveal, to whatever measure and degree, the wheat is truly mixed with the weeds! Our human history of death is one of people choosing to live out of politically and religiously evil trajectories that willfully use the tools and rhetoric of hate and division in their work.  In Catholic speak, these people have chosen to follow a Culture of Death that reflects and spreads both hate and ignorance.  Today easily forty plus percent of American Christians are choosing and championing this perspective this year in Trump’s re-election bid.… That’s another Catholic speak vote for Biden…

Many of these conservative Christians, who quick to reference and speak from the scriptures in calling out God’s judgment in/on specific individuals for any number of sins, are often very SILENT and IGNORANT about how these same scriptures repeatedly reveal that same God judging whole  nations for their repeated sin of willfully choosing evil leaders…  Trumpsters continiue to support a spiritually and morally bankrupt and unapologetically evil man who continues to willfully use classist, racist and women hating rhetoric and actions to maintain and deepen the historical inequities experienced by poorest of the American masses….

Our current political administration reflects the same evil reality presented in many of the Old Testament stories that eventually led to Israel’s fall and destruction…  Despite Christian Trumpters largely ignoring this truth, Joe Biden has not… This is what I believe he is, in part, in saying that “…America’s soul is at stake in this election”….  YES!!! Our nation has a soul – and yes, it can die and is at stake!!!

So, WHO ARE THESE CHRISTIAN TRUMPTERS?  My guess is that these people fall generally into two camps…

The first and hopefully the largest part,  are those who, simply stated, are truly spiritually immature and/or misled and ignorant – period. Note; if they are truly misled, then they too are victims requiring prayer… These are those spiritually ignorant babes who have been raised up in or were spiritually formed after conversion in this kind of spiritually conservative and closed context (and they still live comfortably in).  Unfortunately for some of these babes, this is all that they have known and experienced – spiritually, socially, academically, vocationally at work and politically in their lives.

They are comfortable, ignorantly prideful in their immaturity unawares that in their immature zeal they are complicit with the very evil they pray to fight against.  These spiritual babes understand and define the spiritual life literally and often in a cut and dry fashion based on strict rules, as they focus on strugglin’ to live out the letter of God’s law or a specific moral lifestyle as prescribed by their religious faith, etc..

You can tell they are spiritually immature because they are so zealously quick to repeatedly highlight the sins of others as they ignore and fail to see or address their own gross and apparent heinous sins – even those evident in their very arguments, attitudes and actions!!!  Despite their Trump loving ways (lol), these people are ‘saved,’ if only because of the true, authentic, zealous nature of their faith and spirituality, despite its immaturity – note, which has NOTHING to do with chronological age or how long one has been living the faith… We must continue to pray for these people because there is truly hope for them, in Christ, to eventually grow to love all who will be in the Kingdom…  These spiritual babes still have difficulty truly accepting and loving in Christ those who lives are radically different from theirs…

As babes, they have difficulty truly understanding and trying to live out in concrete ways both of the ‘as…’ parts in the Our Father (it’s okay, go ahead and say it slowly, lol). They may also know, but as of yet have been unable to unlock and apply daily the spiritual truth that their personal growth in prayer and in Christ is directly linked to their willingness to sacrificially love  A L L others in the community – starting with those most different and challenging to themselves and extending to  their enemies…

A common example found is the zealous convert for whom it takes a decade or two to grow to live the grace that people of other denominations, who praise and worship in different ways, are not either sinful or spiritually immature… It may take decades for them to stop praying for a family member’s conversion and to simply pray for them to be blessed and to live out God’s will. God will continue to challenge and chastise these spiritual babes as God does all the saved…

We must humbly remember that in every age, there will be those who, for reasons that only known to God, will seemingly never mature and blossom in Christ…  The truth actually is, that in fact the evil one will almost always attack and use God’s young children in some manner, especially in their spiritual infancy because an immature Christian is the easiest to break, twist and use, especially with their youthful zeal… The saints attest to it as a fact.  To this end, I believe some Christian Trumpsters are actually victims and I pity them… Some of these Christian Trumpsters are literally in the spiritual fight of their lives – and they can sense it!!!

They are struggling between (falsely) comfortably staying put/safe in their spiritual life or leaping out in faith to radically love those who are different from them. We must continue to pray for these spiritual babes – that we can continue to love them as Christ loved the young and immature Apostles and disciples: with a holy and prayerful patience and kindness that empowers them to, by grace, BREAK THROUGH to see the importance of living part two of Jesus’ Laws of Love – to Love your neighbor as yourself

The second and hopefully the smallest part of these Christian Trumpsters, are those quiet, weathered and gray haired, long serving elders who are the real behind-the-scene movers and shakers in many of our businesses, religious and political institutions and families… They are mothers and fathers, business owners, professionals and civic leaders… These are they who ALSO, spiritually long ago heard God’s call to let go of their selfish desire to judge others and do the hard work of loving others,

They heard God’s call and invitation for them to let go of their pride and false love in the letter of the law as they understand it, and to love as the Father does – all people regardless of race, creed, sexuality, etc..  They have also repeatedly heard God’s call to grow past their personal Pharisaic letter of the law faith that is rooted in their pridefully absolutized, false moral or spiritual criteria and standard (i.e. race, class, sexuality, being of a different religion or nation, how one lives a specific Commandment, one’s Pro Life or Abortion perspective, whether they have committed THAT (my personally) unforgivable sin – because we each at least 1 or 2,  etc.) …

They have also heard God’s repeated invitation to begin living, working and proclaiming the faith in light of the Holy Spirit and the Spiritual works of mercy and the Beatitudes – that is, with the Heart and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ – TO THOSE WHO DO NOT LOOK OR THINK LIKE THEM!!!  But like Pharaoh – despite repeatedly suffering divine plagues, in pride they continue to hardened their hearts…

These are they that have hardened their hearts, turning their eyes blinded by racial hate or greed or fear of real change, toward the gross evil embodied in Trump, even to the very end of their very offspring, family and nation…  They are willfully modelling in word and deed known historical evils, with the intend of both passing them down to a new generation and imbedding them deeper into our American institutions.

Yes, we must pray for these souls also, that their evil does not spread and grow but will continue to die out with each decade.  We must pray for these living cancers who knowingly use the faith to spread evil, that they and their works may go into a permanent remission…

We must pray that their continued work will not lead our nation to ignore the scriptural warnings that our American soul is truly at stake. Though he did not say it, I truly believe that this was and is the very destruction of the American life and nation that President Obama also warned us about in his speech at the recent Democratic National Convention…

And so, on this Labor Day weekend when both conventions are over, I make an urgent appeal to all people of faith to FERVENTLY pray A PRAYER VIGIL UNTIL ELECTION DAY for all Christian Trumpsters. We must must pray daily – in the spiritual fervor of the Old Testament vigil of Nineveh when Job preached – that day by day until November’s vote, God will intervene in the lives of Christian Trumpsters to do the right thing by Jesus…  What is that? To quietly save face before our God.  How?

By prayerfully and privately considering my arguments while you continue to ‘save face’ and support Trump – all the way until you step into the voting booth –  to then vote for Biden – when only God and yourself are present…  You can then exit and still proclaim Trump your as man, without losing any face…

Remember, who will question you, since most of you live in like minded communities? When the numbers begin to come out revealing how soooooo many other republicans had the courage to flip in the booth like you when it really counted, you do not have to say a thing… Just sit back and watch how that cloud of fear you’ve lived under will begin to slowly fade as you begin to feel freer and freer each day – to hope, live have to have faith in an uncharted Gospel American future…

COVID -19 Survival Plan: Prayerfully Accepting Our Nakedness

People everywhere are experiencing how COVID – 19 seemingly just appeared out of nowhere and pulled the plug on our world’s happy little bubble bath…  We were all just relaxing and soakin’ in the miasma of daily life, when all of a sudden, BAM!!!  This pandemic not only pulled out the plug to our world’s warm and cozy bath, but it ALSO widened the drain that it covered!!!  Now as the water is both getting colder and running out faster than we ever anticipated, many are stuck and stunned…   Stunned at the true revelation our common nakedness as human beings – both individually and collectively as a nation…

It was just months ago when some were completely ignorant about the reality of their own nakedness…  There were others who had simply forgotten about it or, had willfully and successfully been able to hide/lock it in some dark hidden corner of their life – complete with a mask to cover and redefine it when it did surface… But now with the world’s plug pulled, our pre-pandemic illusion of ‘being normal and fully clothed’ has been revealed for what it really is… …And somehow, we must all come to grips with the cold, true reality of our utter human nakedness…

Even those on million dollar yachts cannot escape this pandemic caused nakedness…  With no escape, how are we suppose to proceed? What is the best response one can make in grappling with one’s utter nakedness?  As Christians we turn to the Bible for scriptural examples and guidance in this matter because it clearly speaks about the nakedness of human life­ – both its causes and our responses to it. The examples of nakedness I am using can be found at the beginning of the Old and New Testaments – in Genesis with our first parent and in the Gospels with Jesus.

Buying Satan’s Lie: Our Nakedness Reflects Our Nothingness

            Genesis begins the Old Testament with stories of Adam and Eve, where readers can find and reflect on our first parent’s response to the very real, sudden nakedness that is caused when sin/evil and humanity meet.  Whereas I believe COVID -19 is moreso, but not exclusively, a natural evil (aka earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.), there are others who believe without a doubt, that it is a moral and willful evil act that was/is freely chosen and planned… COVID – 19 origins aside, my focus today is on what our scripturally based personal and communal responses to nakedness can be, so lets proceed.

With that said, the Genesis narrative reveals that after encountering an unprecedented evil, it was the first parents’ free willed response to it that resulted in their utter human nakedness. It was their response to the event, not the event itself, which led to the creation and revelation of their own nakedness!!!  Their disobedience created a context in which their innocence was lost and they became painfully aware of their limitations and challenges – like their mortality, their mental and spiritual nakedness, etc. In short, they lost their innocence through disobedience but gained the awareness, through sin, of their real but limited creatureliness before an almighty God.

That’s a lot to handle and deal with – especially when as a ‘youth’ the first couple suddenly realized that their ‘normal’ had been permanently changed – and because of their own actions!   Some of us who boldly and fearlessly messed up in our early lives, know what this feels like… The first couple was now forced to live daily with and in the raw nakedness of their creatureliness their limited power and knowledge, their ignorance of God’s ultimate plans, their inability to have absolute freedom and the utter nakedness of being a dependent creature/child of God who is not God, etc…

By sinning the first couple lost the precious gifts of a trusting faith, real simple hope and an unquestioned love of and for God (and God’s plans etc.).  They now experienced their nakedness in a different manner than before…  That which was originally nothing, all of sudden became recast into a bad and problematic ‘something’ for them! It became something to be ashamed of, to hide and be embarrassed about and to feel bad about… In their radical nakedness, they chose to respond to it– and God – with fear: by hiding, lying, finger pointing, and blaming others, etc.

As youth, they rejected the very nakedness that their choices had created… … They failed to trust, know and have faith that if God created them naked, then God’s also had a plan and reason why they were so … …Instead, they bought Satan’s lie that their creaturely nakedness was proof of BOTH their own ultimate meaninglessness and also that God was an outright liar!!!  The sin blinded them from understanding, accepting and knowing that God is glorified and we are made holy, by freely working with God’s grace through our nakedness!

Following Jesus’ Truth: Our Nakedness Reflects Our Holiness

            The New Testament begins with the opposite example: One who accepted and lived out of  His human nakedness – as a blessing to bless others and as a vehicle to give Glory to God…  In the Gospels, the Apostles share Jesus’ responses to the human nakedness caused by sin, life and death. Like our first parents, Jesus also had a choice in how He could respond to the very real natural, moral and spiritual evils He encountered during His life and ministry. His response to that utter nakedness contrasted greatly with Adam and Eve’s, and stands alone as the human response to nakedness, par excellence!!!

Jesus’ response was to prayerfully acknowledge and to accept his human nakedness in faith and hope each day.  He did so, in belief, that His person, mission and work would not be ultimately stopped or thwarted by the human nakedness He encountered on the journey. He chose to have faith in God’s Promises of His specially created somethingness, instead of buying the lie offered by Satan that his present experience of human nakedness equates to eternal nothingness.

By rising early to ground Himself in prayer,  [COVID SURVIVAL PLAN #1] Jesus began each day by renewing Himself in God’s Spirit of Truth and Love.  This act made it possible for Him to accept his nakedness as a divine gift and also to live a response to it by faith, hope and loving service to others. Each day, he MODELED and lived the “Our Father” for the Apostles, which instructs us to prayerfully come to God for our daily bread.

He spoke aloud and prayed for the daily needs/concerns/bread of God’s people – their nakedness and his own – empowering each as he could towards the Kingdom.  Being renewed each morning, He went forth giving away that which He just received – the grace, faith, hope and love of God – though still poor, broken and naked himself.

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What was Jesus’ prayer regarding His nakedness?  My guess is that…

First and foremost, that He would and could – THIS DAY – fully accept it as both God’s will and God’s blessing for Him.  We see and read about this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night He died for us when He says, “…but not my will, but Yours be done…”

Second, surely that somehow and in someway this day, that He would walk with and be used by God’s Spirit to love and serve others as best He could – despite being ‘just’ an utterly naked creature – this day…

Third, that He would continue to model for others a powerful love, trust and hope in the truthfulness of God’s Promises more and more each day.  That in doing so, His life would empower others to reject Satan’s lies about Who and What God really is…  That in doing so, His life would empower others to accept – in faith, hope and love – their call as God’s Children…

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Living out this COVID – 19 plan is not for the faint hearted, or for those who are unwilling to wrestle with their nakedness and to bring it truly to God via prayer.

In fact, I suspect that if you are like me, some days you can’t even begin to acknowledge your nakedness until you have been FIRST bathed and lathered in God’s Love… Only then, am I able to go forth courageously accepting the naked truths about my nakedness – once again, to start this very day…

May God Bless you and me as we together, rise each morning offering our nakedness as our tithe, that we may receive that daily grace and bread to go forth nakedly, serving others in God’s Holy Spirit!

COVID – 19  At Home Spiritual Survival Plan – Step 2  – Plan Your Day

Many people find themselves at home and grounded during this pandemic.  Many of these are also finding themselves struggling to find meaning and purpose during this time of fear and  uncertainty primarily because of their loss of employment.  It is normal to feel this way!!! Why? Because whether we realize it or not, often much of our life meaning and purpose is actualized, manifested and fulfilled in or through or at one’s place of employment!!!

Yes, work is and can be good for the soul, for even a bad job often provides something that everybody needs: a community outside of their family and home that becomes part of one’s life…   Many great sitcoms and movies have been rooted in the community loves found at bad jobs that have great work communities… Even for the introverted prayer warriors, it is also often through their work community that many are able to find the people and stories – outside of their family and the news – to pray for and over…

Often, our meaning and purpose – which the Gospel speaks of simply as  loving and serving others – is often  ‘exercised or lived out’ in/at our work communities.  It is often a source from which many of our extended family members, friends and close acquaintances are often found. Losing our ‘work community’ is a very difficult reality to experience and bear and can not be completely replaced by picking up the telephone or connecting digitally with others online…

However, replacing the way that work tends to schedule, plan and give meaning to our daily and weekly life is something that most persons can and will have to work at creatively addressing, especially now finding themself grounded and at home…

Few are able to slow down enough to  acknowledge how  ‘work’ often can frame our daily and weekly lives…  This framing and scheduling of our lives by work is one manner that it veritably gives or provides actual meaning and purpose for us, that is, by structuring our days and weeks.  Holidays, children’s school lives and yearly vacations are other examples of realities that can frame the daily and weekly of our lives…

My core suggestion – to plan your day – sounds simple enough, but how can one do this without gettin’ bent outta shape and goin’ crazy?  In short, how can we BOTH live in the now of each day still celebrating life’s gift in faith and hope, yet also still work, plan, use and build ourselves up by taking advantage of this forced quarantined time?

I suggest breaking your day into four or five loosely timed sections of an hour to ninety minutes…   Sectioning off and planning each day from a common core of available options is one manner of giving, finding and creating meaning for oneself when locked down during these COVID -19 times…  Here are some suggestions…

Start your day with Prayer (see the previous article)

Grounding your day in God’s peace and love will give you hope for the day in these uncertain times. If there is any true certainty or peace to be found or had today, it is surely in God.  By placing yourself in God’s presence daily and receiving that grace, peace and love – your True daily bread – you will begin to increasingly walk in God’s peace, and not in fear, more and more each day.  It will begin to rest in you… To guide you… And to calm you more and more each seemingly different and uncertain day…

Plan for the obvious, like chores and for the daily activities that you will be doing around the house

For example, using cooking times to learn about cooking new recipes with family members… Or using it to listening to a family member’s very different music, or simply just shutting up and allowing another to freely ‘pontificate’ about their ideas, hopes and dreams… This simply takes all to agree on a common cooking time later in the day and you to begin planning and thinking before hand how all can share the activity in some nuanced way…

Plan to gather for some fun or relaxed times that naturally occur for all…

I stressed this because during these times of limited community gathering, any community that we are blessed to have, must be nurtured and cherished all the more during these tough times.  So, gathering for meals is a great time for community sharing (especially if there is a great desert to wait for at the end of dinner!)… A planned, late night cocktail or movie is another way for two busy parents to connect… You get the point…

Plan to learn something new and interesting during this time of forced quarantining…

If you have the capabilities, go to YouTube University and learn about new hobbies that you are interested in or, deepen an already established area of interest…

Plan for some form of physical exercise or an actual workout if possible

Go for walks, try a new online Pilates or dance workout, dust off the rarely use exercise equipment that you already have at home, etc. and start some kind of work out program at home!  Be determined to “wow the folks” when we all emerge in the summer (that’s not a joke)…

I have a friend with school-age children who timed the number of times he could go up and down their home’s central flight of stair in two minutes, and then challenged each of his four children (aged 5 – 13) to beat it!!  Needless to say, they got close and now want to raise him daily (lmao)!!! He’s already devised a series of small monetary prizes to keep them striving for more after they catch and surpass his total!  He has stumbled upon a fun gym class at home for his kids – and he loves the way it burns up their energy and makes them go to bed earlier (lol)!!!

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          As you now realize, one can have any number of various possible planned ninety minute sections to draw from to create and make each day, a unique and fun one with its own meaning and purpose.  The trick in successful planning, like budgeting, is to sit down and to do it beforehand!!!  I suggest mentally planning the next day the night before if there are things you know that you want or need to get done, or planning it out each morning after your prayer time…

You now have a basic blueprint and easy methodology for creatively planning your days and increased time.  I hope that it can be of some assistance in your quest to find and create daily meaning and purpose to replace that which work once fulfilled in our pre COVID – 19 days.

Now in retrospect, spend some time reflecting on how your old work schedule functioned to structure  your day and week, thus providing  purpose and meaning through its time structuring of your life.

Also, envision how you can begin now learning how to plan your daily life around what’s most important to you – surviving, loving, growing, serving and thriving more each day in the faith and in hope that is given by grace – instead of around a job.  This is one way of flipping the script on the unique and unprecedented COVID – 19 reality and walking by faith daily.

COVID – 19  At Home Spiritual Survival Plan – Step 1  – Rise Daily in Prayer

Unprecedented times require unprecedented prayer. Use the extra morning time – now that most are at home – to spiritually ground your day in God’s larger plan for you and your family, which is the Peace of God’s Kingdom.

With the onset of the COVID – 19 pandemic, we are all now riding in uncharted waters…

During these unprecedented times, what are we to do spiritually?  These are unlike any times most have ever spiritually encountered… All spiritual houses of worship are closed… There will be no Palm Sunday, Good Friday or Easter Services this year…

Yes, it is true – all God’s children who gather on Sundays are missing our graced and Spirit filled experience of being God’s body when gathered to praise and worship as one. But now, there are no homilies, sacraments, great sermons, praise parties or and after worship food and fellowship anymore…

The whole world is seemingly under siege and on lock down and in quarantine, or at least, is social distancing as we collectively try to “flatten the curve” of the  COVID -19 spread. During this time when we are compelled to stay at home – not just for our safety but for that of the greater community – what can each person do spiritually to both assist all working on the front lines as we also spiritually address our own family’s needs?

Start with the basics: begin your day in prayer. Make a morning ‘tithe’ and give God the first good part of your day as you sit down and spend a good fifteen or twenty minutes with God each morning.  And, yes – you can do it with your coffee at the kitchen table or on the back porch… Set your phone time to eight minutes, relax and begin…

During your morning prayer, first thank God for another day and all that you do have, as sincerely as you can…   Then, pour out your heart and mind to God about all  your concerns and those of the world for the rest of the time until your timer goes off.   Reset your timer to another eight minutes and then try to SHUT UP and simply, be with God…

Or simply LISTEN to what God’s Word has for you that day by praying over a short section of a Scripture Psalm or Proverb during this time… The important point is, during this time you are trying to find a way to give God equal time and for you to shut up!  In being quiet you are now learning how to hear and to listen to God in your prayer time…

Unprecedented times require unprecedented prayer. Use the extra morning time – now that most are at home – to spiritually ground your day in God’s larger plan for you and your family, which is the Peace of God’s Kingdom.

Grounding you day in God’s Peace each morning will go a loooooooong way towards alleviating and addressing some of the very real fears that we are all facing each day.

Preparing for Lent 2020

As we approach this year’s Lenten season, hopefully you have been able to steal a few reflective moments in order to prepare for it. No one can do all the million-and-one Lenten activities that Christians are often invited to do: from praying more, to giving more alms, to volunteering more at Church, etc.. It just seems impossible – especially if you have children at home or are caring for parents/grandkids, etc. to make and take the time to ‘slow down and become more prayerful’!!!

Yet, even in the face of our busy lives, we often still hear God’s call each year at this time…  In hearing it and being reminded that Lent approaches, we often feel the need to respond in some manner…   Now that the holidays and New Years has passed, winter’s dog days has reminded us that its once again time to renew and to deepen our faith journey towards the Kingdom…

Often, if there is any preparation for Lent, it generally focuses on identifying what one will ‘give up’ this year… Of course, ideally we should spend some quality time identifying and preparing to make and own our Lenten sacrifice or Lenten addition (i.e. like making 15 MINUTES for prayer each morning)…

Whether you have ultimately decided to sacrifice x or to add y this Lent, please remember to prayerfully name each morning the specific GOAL(S) of your Lenten sacrifices or additions.  By prayerfully naming them daily, you are empowering these potential virtues and character traits to develop and, by grace, to be realized this year during Lent!!!

Goals like…  …like starting a prayer life, working out regularly, eating healthier, orally never cursing but always blessing and commending others, etc..  In prayerfully naming and stating these goals, you will be spiritually holding out your ‘Lenten carrot’ and allowing God’s grace to pull you forward to them this Lent…

Apart from determining exactly ‘what I will give up (or add)’ this Lent,’ is there perhaps, another important decision that one need to consciously make before starting Lent?

Yes, there is one more…

It is to determine and name the attitude and manner that we want to enter into and live out this Lent with!!! Attitude is everything!!!  Often in life, it is the only thing that we can control – if that!!!

Our lives are stamped with recurring realities… They include both repeating weekly realities like work and family duties and those once a year realities like Lent and ‘the holidays.’   Both kinds of realties can and do eventually over time, become routine in their own way, despite having their own uniquely recurring rituals and practices – like BBQing on the 4th of July!!!

When confronted with the real life challenge of entering into yet another boring holiday, liturgical season or family event, etc., our REAL challenge is to not let the small things bother or derail us (like figuring out what we will give up for Lent)…

At these times, what is most important is making sure that we have the right and a healthy attitude to begin these recurring events with…  … This inner work of  ‘havin’ the right ‘tude’ as my mom used to say, can be infinitely harder than making a forty day ‘mindless sacrifice’ of little consequence.  Just ask anyone living in family or community life  – is it easier to give all than to live in grace and walk in ‘the right ‘tude’ each day?

In short, during these busy times let’s NOT fall into that trap and get derailed by focusing on choosing what to do this Lent….    Let’s simply redirect our focus to being in the right heart space each day throughout the Lenten season…

In this Spirit,

May God find you this Lent…

More prayerful…

More open to listening…

More patient with yourself and others…

More humble, penitent and loving –

In your daily words and deeds

As this Lent fades away

And Easter nears…

Amen.