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.

Advent 2019: God’s Unchanged Christmas Desire

There are few things in life that we really like to prepare for… Unless something is very, very important, most of us would generally like to just show up, like some of us did way back in high school as students.  In ‘showing up’ we are hoping that our very presence is enough to merit our getting or receiving whatever is suppose to be given – like a grade in that class, etc.

This is possible for the little or small things in life, sometimes…

… But other things in life are so important, that they simply require a period of preparation: like an engagement before a wedding and a pregnancy before a birth are examples. For these ‘big things’ in life, we know that we must prepare – our bodies, hearts and minds for what is coming!

In these ‘big things’ of life, if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.  Often, a lack of preparation can or may even result in us losing something that we rightfully even expected, hoped for or anticipated – like a big tax return!! The hoped for big spring tax check unfortunately may fail to be realized due to poor record keeping and preparation.

If this is true for the ‘big things’ in our natural lives, is this not even more true for the most fundamental reality that undergirds all others: our spiritual life?

Consider the following common example…

For many Catholics, going to Mass on Sunday is an important part of their spiritual life, yet many also say they find it is often routine.  When I hear people talk about how routine (boring) the Mass can be, I ask what are they doing to prepare to receive God at Mass? Do they prepared for it, by simply reading or listening to the Scriptures at the Mass they will be attending before hand – they are online, even on the way to Mass?  This SIMPLE ACT of preparation made into a habit can and will deepen and transform one’s routine experience and communion at Mass.

This simple truth also applies to the reality of Christmas in our lives.  What was God’s desire that first Christmas? Did Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and Wise Men all PREPARE for it? Even Herod, in finding out late from the Wise Men, tried to prepare for it – in an evil way – by murdering thousands of innocent children under two, which caused the Holy family to flee to Egypt…

If we are to really live out the real meaning of Christmas each year – starting with this year – we must prepare to receive God in some new way this year.  This was what the first Christmas was all about!!!  God’s desire to Give God’s Self to us anew!!!  God’s desire for each of us has remained unchanged since that first Christmas Day…

Once again, since we generally prepare only when forced or for the most important things of our lives, what could be more important than receiving God in some new way this Christmas season?!?!

As Christians, we may find ourselves running around seeking to gift others this Christmas – don’t get me wrong, this to, is what the season is ALSO VERY MUCH about…  But we must also remember God’s original desire for us in celebrating Christmas and we must prepare for it…

…TO RECEIVE God anew …like in a graced reconciliation in that close relationship or a change in our financial status/a new job or like a jump starting or deepening our prayer life and/or worship experience, etc.

God has got THAT gift with our name on it…

It is a gift that only God can give us…

All we must do is to prayerfully and humbly ask for it – yes, to name it…

And also to faithfully prepare in anticipation of receiving it soon.

Have a Blessed Advent Season!!!  Step out on faith and hope to receive that Gift that only God can give you, for that is part of what CHRISTMAS is all about!!!

On the Special Gifts Given in Morning Prayer For Those Who Serve

Sometimes I wonder if those of us who willfully serve family, friends and the world using our gifts in Christ, spiritually have the word “SUCKER” stenciled across our foreheads!!!  Since it is often stated that God saves both ‘children and fools,’ perhaps the wisest yet apparently foolhardy thing we can do as believers living in this ‘get paid and do me’ culture, is to simply give ourselves away and back to God.   To foolishly, forsake the money, fame and glory while working to love, serve and build the community in faith.

There are many who willfully – perhaps even foolishly – spend their lives serving others with their gifts and talents.  These individuals can be professionals like lawyers, doctors or teachers but also include the masses  of public servants in food service, housekeeping or other industries like communications, landscaping, etc.… What most of these people, by God’s grace, have come to believe and are living out is the following: It is of utmost spiritual importance that we respond to God’s invitation to imitate Christ by using our gifts to serve and build the community. 

The true Christian understanding and lived experience of church and community does not teach that one can freely fish and take from the community without cost, responsibility or consequences (natural or eternal). We have a moral and spiritual responsibility to nurture, sustain and to build up the communities we are a part of.

For graced believers and servants living ‘in God’s Spirit,’ the community is accepted and experienced as part of that Sacred Ground from and in which our very gifts and talent have been developed.  As such, God’s servants eventually come, by prayer and grace, to first acknowledge and then to live God’s law and invitation to freely give back and serve the community with whatever we have been given.

Yet, choosing or accepting (i.e. family) a life of service can itself lead to much sacrifice and great struggles for both oneself and family.

Many entering the path of service, at least professionally, do so from a motivation not entirely based on altruism or love, as some forms of professional service like medicine and law, also provide a level of financial independence and autonomy desired by most.  Even some family situations hold financial motivations alongside those of truly desiring to help another in need.  I suspect most if not all entering any real service path will do so for a variety of reasons, including selfishly good ones – like because we enjoy doing it (whether cleaning, driving, caring for family, etc.) and because it may also pay well (medicine or law)!!!

However one finds oneself living out the Christian path of service, the importance of building and maintaining a consistent and daily morning prayer routine cannot be overstated or underestimated. After briefly sharing the points below with another last week, my heart felt called to share it here also, as there are many other fellow Christian servants out there who are strugglin’ and who simply need to be reminded why starting their day with morning prayer is an absolute necessity!

Please, eat the following spiritual advice like fish – if there is any meat in it, taste and see if it is for you – otherwise, spit out the bones… The following summarizes that conversation last week regarding the Three Special Gifts given through daily morning prayer to most believers who have committed their lives to serving Christ and building His Kingdom…

A.   Morning prayer returns the servant and their gifts back to the Source of All Gifts – God, restoring, renewing and empowering both the person and their gifts to begin again… God’s touch enables the servant to – on this day – serve and love once again, even in the face of the very real emotional/physical/financial and vocational realities that one may awaken to any given day.                                                                                                                       

This sacred time of prayer is the secret to avoiding burning out in a life of service, avoiding serving in a specific capacity to long or not being able to find and respond to the  new ways that God is calling one to service at different stages of life. God’s touch prepares, deepens and unlocks our gifts so they can be shared and used that very day in accordance with God’s plan.

B.     Morning prayer reminds the servant each day, that one’s service is about something much greater than even one’s own very life, goals and happiness….It reminds the servant that his or her gifts, their development and now the placement and ability to serve using them for the community is all – [PRAISE HIM!] – part of God’s greater plan, of which God has kindly let us be a tiny part of and also let us know a small bit about…

C.    Morning prayer links the servant back to the Gospel and Jesus’s life.  In morning prayer, one comes to name and face the sacrifices they have made and are making now in order to serve others as a Christian and servant of God.  Morning prayer roots these real sacrifices and sufferings in Jesus Life and  Cross and simultaneously imbues them (and us carrying them) with God’s grace and hope RIGHT NOW and also in God’s Kingdom at life’s end.                                                                                                      

Morning prayer thereby places one’s daily ministry and life firmly within the Gospel itself and on a Gospel trajectory, giving God’s servant a palpable and graced meaning, purpose and joy that surpasses the real material losses and sacrifices one has experienced in life.

May God continue to infuse into your soul, the Love necessary for you to complete your chosen life of service, praise and sacrifice.  Amen.

So… What exactly is Jesus’ Narrow Gate?”

Love is that universal language and narrow gate that can be exchanged in truth by strangers from completely different worlds, even if they are meeting for the first time!  Every person reading this has experienced this spiritual and existential truth!

“Someone asked him,

“Lord, will only a few people be saved”?

He answered them,

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,

for many, I tell you, will attempt enter but will not be strong enough.”

Lk 13: 23-24

_____________

What is this narrow gate that Jesus spoke about?

Before reading further, take moment to answer the question for yourself…

______________

            There are some who will or can only answer this question from a denominational or religious perspective like, “it means being a _____” (fill in your denomination or religion) or preferred term like being a ‘Bible Believer, etc..’ YES, I once was,one of these people, who understood that universally narrow gate as the faith that I had settled on – Catholicism.  Even most nondenominationalists subscribing only to the simplest articulations of the faith, have some standard that is ultimately rooted in and traced back to a specific theological or scriptural belief…

Please forgive these people (like that old me), for it is often out of a zealous young love for Christ that we may debate you to the last dying breath about why _______ is the definitive narrow gate (lmao x a mil)!!! One sounds like Love engrossed religious newlywed, who honestly look you in the eye and argue that their spouse is DIFFERENT and definitely the most…  …who has ever lived (ok! Let’s wait a decade…). 

In that first decade after my conversion, if you asked me what was Jesus’ narrow gate, you had better watch out!!!! Suddenly I would ‘switch on you’ and morph into this theological and scriptural monster, parroting Catholic interpretations of scriptures and theology as that narrow gate.

And trust me, NO, you don’t have to have a graduate degree to be a skilled expert at this.  All it takes is the spiritual pride that often accompanies one’s initial decade of real adult spiritual growth in the faith – whether Baptist, Non Denominational, Catholic, C.O.G.I.C., or Jehovah’s Witnesses!!!!  

There will always be peoples at/in the various stages of the spiritual life in the various communities that we live in (1rst = Purgative, 2nd = Illuminative and 3rd = Unitive stage of the spiritual life).  Like many young professionals come to experience vocationally, this initial enthusiasm of this first stages eventually changes…

Today, in a patient and hopeful way that is respectful of each person’s journey, I pray for those I see like this… Asking God to shorten this period before they come to see, experience and share by grace the sheer scope and universality of Jesus’ great love, sacrifice and saving work… Without being locked into or limited by their own scriptural, religious and denominations perspectives and language.

In responding to the question regarding what is Jesus’ narrow gate, some Christians reading this will insist that I must answer this question theologically and scripturally – and yes, I can agree with them in Spirit – but only for myself and not for the universal catholic church, if that Catholic language is an impediment.  This can especially be the case for those who are nonbelievers or who have rejected organized religion because of its history of abuse and sin I their lives.

Perhaps the one scriptural and theological answer that I can readily accept as the narrow gate, and in fact, which I must accept as the answer in order to be Christian, is that Jesus Himself is that narrow gate!  This means that this gate is not a metaphysical and cosmic wormhole, door, principle or truth – but a Divine Person of the Most Holy Trinity!

Truth be told, the Truth – that Jesus Saves!– must often be lived out for years/decades before it can actually be witnessed to and shared with the tongue – from a natural, lived experience and universal manner… and with a language that transcends organized religion. Of course, grace can do for you what has taken decades for me, but then this Taurean was given that special gift of steadfast tenaciousness (translated: hard headedness)!!! Anyways…

I was once a babe in Christ, and that was okay at the time! Decades of marital and family life, work in and outside of the church plus adding fundamental spiritual practices like integrating prayer into my daily life and trying to live out the Ten Commandments, has transformed and simplified all that graduate school theology into a graced life of obedience, sacrifice and applied love of my gifts. 

I am not alone on this journey; there are many of us being transformed in Christ through simple lives honed by grace, obedience and sacrifice.  It’s a quiet, joyful life of ‘prepping for God’s Kingdom’ through love and service that is not Facebook focused and outwardly pretty.

A few decades older and now serving as a hospital chaplain, I meet people from every age and walk of life…  I am, by God’s grace and training, now able to touch, walk with and to serve the human needs – like simply listening to and being with another – of various peoples and backgrounds in a manner that even  sometimes surprises the patient. How?

Trust me, NOT always leading with witnessing to or about ‘the faith’ – that is simply not the way to  approach most people – EVEN OTHER CHRISTIANS!!!  Why? Because, we must always be humbly aware of our own ignorance regarding another’s story, history and spiritual journey – and especially  where they are even at’ because of the day they may be having!

It is for these people and for this reason, that as a chaplain when meeting new people, I now first show my answer to the question about the narrow gate with a joyous smile reflecting God’s love. I follow by simply being present to  their person and listening to them, even if we never touch on anything religious… A simple loving presence is all I often give…

As a chaplain, I am sometimes questioned about my faith affiliation and title.  Some believe my answer will give them a lens into what my core understanding, beliefs – what my narrow gate – is, and they are correct.  I tell ‘em all that first and foremost, I am just “a simple servant of God – not even ordained! Once called to teach, but now called to chaplain and walk with God’s people on our common journey to God’s Kingdom.”

My response and ministry reflects my heartfelt believe that in heaven, there is just God and God’s children (without titles).  I have found, that by the grace of God and the Spirit given through baptism, my  “narrow gate”  is growing more and more to truly and simply be LOVE: in word – theologically and scripturally, but more importantly also in DEED.

LOVE is Jesus’ narrow gate.

Of course, I am agreeing theologically and scripturally with the orthodox Tradition and my heart, as I am also practically applying it via grace and prayer in a manner that touches all relationships and aspects of all lives. In acknowledging that Jesus is Love, I am also acknowledging that He is not only the Standard and Judge, but also the ONLY spiritual lens/door/model through which the truth of our loves will be evaluated, assessed and revealed.

Love is that universal language and narrow gate that can be exchanged in truth by strangers from completely different worlds, even if they are meeting for the first time!  Every person reading this has experienced this spiritual and existential truth! It is one of the revelatory messages found in Jesus’ parable, the Good Samaritan. This radical love for the other that is grounded in God’s Love is that narrow gate Jesus spoke of, modeled and made possible by climbing the Cross for us.

Love as that narrow gate makes it truly universal, because its Source, God, and the ability to live in and by God’s power of love is available to all through faith and grace.

As that gate, love is narrow because as we all know, any true and real love – like those grounded in God like family – will sometimes require and is the source of life’s  most gut wrenching sacrifices and our long term sufferings.

Because “Love cancels out sin,” it really is the only thing that we can take with us to ‘unlock and enter’ through the narrow gate that is Jesus, the Entrance to God’s Kingdom!!!