Deal Some Mercy – Good News for February 28

28 02 2009

John 7:40-53

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”

So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”

So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,  “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Then each went to his own house.

The Daily Path: Here’s a question for Lent. What can you offer up to God that will help someone else?

I don’t see how my giving up candy and ice cream does much to show love and mercy for another. In fact, the resulting downturn in confection sales might actually put someone out of work! Phew. Dodged that bullet.

Seriously though, a precious commodity in this society is our time. Giving up our time during lent to help someone in need seems to be a great way to prepare for the Resurrection of the King of Sacrifice. Find a way to share the burden of the cross that another carries.

Remember, it doesn’t take much. Don’t get caught up in a grand scheme that will never get off the ground. Keep it simple! Perhaps it’s only a minute to bend down and perform a random act of kindness. Consider ten minutes of prayer petitioning God to help someone you know. It can be an hour online researching non-profit aid organizations, while asking the Holy Spirit for inspiration on where you can make a difference. The point is to look for ways to give up your time in the service of someone who needs your help. 

Room to Chat: For the next 24 hours, open your eyes for one opportunity to help. Dealing love and mercy is cool!

Fasting Backwards – Good News for February 27

27 02 2009

Mark 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The Daily Path: I fasted almost non-stop for many years. While outwardly I never looked like Ghandi, on the  inside I was a wraith. I ingested everything that gave me pleasure. Fun, food, booze, drugs, sex, ego, greed, decadence. I was the original “Joy Boy” who couldn’t get enough.

You’re probably wondering what that life of endless indulgence has to do with my fasting. Let me tell you: The one thing I abstained from was God.

Oh, I knew He was there. I’d pay a brief visit now and again to “borrow the car” just like the son from Harry Chapin’s song “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Somehow God didn’t cut me off. He allowed me to attend the wedding reception and enjoy the party without going to the ceremony or meeting the bridegroom. Then, when He saw me stumbling down on the ground from too much life, God brought the bridegroom over to meet me. His Son reached down and picked me up. He hugged me and said “You’ve fasted enough. Now it’s time to eat at my table. Come on, I’ve been saving a special seat just for you.”

Room to Chat: Do the dishes. (“What’s the koo-koo suggesting now?” Stan Doubtsall) I don’t like to do the dishes. I can’t think of anyone who looks forward to the chore. What if you use that same time for something you do enjoy? Do you like to talk to God? Go grab your sponge and the pan with two-day old spaghetti sauce welded on. You can do a lot of talking while you scrub that mess. (Secret: It will seem like you got the dishes done in no time)

It Don’t Come Easy – Good News for February 26

26 02 2009

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy.

Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

The Daily Path: As I read Luke’s Gospel one of Ringo Starr’s pop hits from the 1970’s crept into my mind. (Ringo Starr? You know, the Beatles? Give me  a break.) Perhaps you’ve heard “It Don’t Come Easy” on an oldies radio station or online. The lyrics go like this: 

It don’t come easy, you know it don’t come easy.

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy.

You don’t have to shout or leap about, you can even play them easy.

Forget about the past and all your sorrows, the future won’t last, it will soon be over tomorrow.

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust, And you know it don’t come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time, And you know it just ain’t easy.

Open up your heart, let’s come together, use a little love and we will make it work out better.

I think Ringo (aka. Richard Starkey) was inspired by the gospel when writing this. Jesus didn’t take the easy road. He willingly gave his life so we could be forgiven. The Apostles didn’t find it easy. They could barely understand what Jesus was teaching them. Still they continued on after the all-time hardest act to follow, and each were required to pay their dues. We, too,  are asked to follow a difficult path in a world that puts unbelievable demands and constant dangers, both physical and moral, in our path. It don’t come easy. 

I don’t ask for much I only want your trust. 

To do what Jesus asks requires great faith that God will be there for us. Absolute trust that His love and mercy be waiting for me at the end of my days. It’s an “all-in” wager at the poker table of my life. Either I believe he will forget about my past and sorrows (sins) to forgive me, or I don’t. 

Fortunately, I’ve been given the opportunity to see God’s love and mercy first hand. I believe it’s a sure bet. Despite the inside knowledge, I’m still just an imperfect human being who falls down everyday. I stumble regularly even though in my heart I know that losing this life will win me the biggest pot of all.

You know… it just ain’t easy.

Room to Chat: Seek the Gospel. Just a line or two each day, in between checking your text messages or online box scores, can open the door. Let God do the rest.

Inner Room – Good News for February 25

25 02 2009

Have you found your inner room?

Mark 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms,  do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

The Daily Path: One of the great joys in my life is the ability to get some extended quiet time. If you have family and career demands like me, these chances are rare. The opportunities to go to my “inner room” are usually brief. I often use my time in the room to reflect on God, talk to Him, give thanks, ask for healing, and just decompress. 

It’s also a place to contemplate giving of yourself (alms) and living in sobriety (fasting) during Lent… and anytime for that matter. Alms do not require cash. Charity is an act of love. Each of us has an endless reserve of love that can act as a perpetual “bail out” wherever needed. Sobriety isn’t just reserved for alcohol, drugs or addiction. Living a sober life can also mean keeping your ego in check. Giving up the need to be correct all the time. 

It’s not easy for me to keep prayer, alms and fasting in the front of my mind as I go through each day. However, I can say that I’ve never been more compelled to do so as I am now. I believe this powerful inspiration is the grace of God at work. I also feel inspired to go to my inner room, close the door, and joyfully blow my trumpet… LOUD! Why? Because I know I’ve been touched by God and that is worthy of celebration, even if only with myself.

Room to Chat: Check into you inner room today. The view is incredible.

Be Greedy This Lent – Good News for February 24

24 02 2009

Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men  and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. 

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The Daily Path: I’m going to be greedy this Lent. (“Martha, I knew this guy is whacko. We’re not reading his blog anymore.”) Sure, what I propose sounds contrary to what many of us have practiced over the years. As a boy, I was taught to give things up during Lent, not seek more. Before you refresh your browser and move to a new blog, I want to share why, starting tomorrow, I’ll pursue more for the next forty days.

The dictionary provides the definition of greed as: an eager desire or longing. This is the key to a Lenten practice that played a role in my full return to God. This practice was suggested to me, and countless others, by Sister Ann Shields, the radio host of Food For The Journey. It calls for a very simple effort. And it’s also the foundation for how I ultimately became a blogger. Here it is: 

During Lent, seek God as much and as often as you can. Have a longing to bring Jesus into your day every chance you get. Foster an eager desire for more conversations with Him. Make more time to think about Christ. 

One year ago, as Sister Ann suggested, I started to remind myself of God’s presence at various points throughout the day. I looked to the regular interruptions of life to act as my cue. When I hit a red light I’d try to think of Jesus. After hanging up the phone I’d say a little prayer. Whenever I saw a church steeple or place of worship I’d say “Thank you, God.” As Lent progressed, I found myself actively seeking more of these little opportunities. As I continued to do these things, I found a longing for more of God was suddenly burning inside me. By Easter, I was the burning man!

I will share more of my Lenten experience here in Good News To-Go! I hope that some of my witness will be the catalyst for opening your own minds and heart to God just as Sister Ann’s words inspired me. Be greedy this Lent. Ask God for more, more, more of Him in your life. 

Room to Chat: Today is an opportunity for a test run. Where can you find a moment for God in your busy day?

Seizures – Good News for February 23

23 02 2009

Mark 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him.  He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”

He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.” They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. 

Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” 
He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!” Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.

When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

The Daily Path: I recently had a seizure. Like the boy in Mark’s gospel, I became rigid (in my outlook). I foamed at the mouth (with anger). The deaf spirit inside of me (a wound) caused me to do things that I immediately found horrifying. Yet, in the moment, I couldn’t control it.

I share this because I’m just now starting to see how these ancient  wounds have possessed me for so many years. As I draw closer to God in my life He’s enabling me to see and hear with greater clarity than ever before. As my eyes are opened I’m not very happy with what I see, but I cannot turn away.

I also see that only one thing can heal my old wounds and drive out the spirit so that it will never return. Prayer.    

Room to Chat: Jesus you know what’s in my heart. Heal these deep wounds and lift me up. Only You can do this.