Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Today, I Will Paint.

Today I will paint first, and later I plan to make a batch of soap. Spotify is playing relaxing Spanish guitar throughout the house. The animals sleep. Overhead, the fans whirr on a day promising rain. We are in between needing heat or air conditioning. I am so comfortable.

But my brain. My brain is reading news because I feel I must know what is happening elsewhere. It is not a greedy feeding for information. It is a deep hurting, a longing, to participate in the smallest way with those suffering on the other side of this globe on which we are all imprisoned. Some are hiding in windowless cement boxes underground, telling themselves they are safer, but feeling trapped and buried already. They clutch their babies. I think of Jesus's words: "Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house. And whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing babies in those days! Moreover, pray that when you flee, it will not be in the winter...." (from Matthew 24)

Why do some suffer and live in terror, while others paint and watch their pets sleep while fans whirr overhead?

I've wondered this for many years. I had suffering years, while my friends had joyful ones. Did they ponder my suffering in this way?

I pray for them during the day and wake thinking of them at night, the families in Ukraine. Is it true that somehow my ease is important because it symbolizes what they fight for, what they strive for? If no one lived in peace on the earth, would the candle flame of freedom and joy be blown out forever? I must treasure the peace and comfort I live in, in order to long for it for them. While their freedom is stripped away from them, I want to hold the candle high and say, "It's still here! It's still burning! Keep fighting!" Somehow, the lives of those living in freedom validate the intense battles of those fighting for it.

I read a website several times daily with updates from Christians inside Ukraine. One person wrote this:

 "Yesterday from the news we learnt that our army destroyed several planes which were bombing our territory, destroyed several land enemy groups. We confessed to each other that we feel glad to know that the enemy dies. And then we began to think what’s happening and how terrible the war is that makes us be glad to the death. 

"Please, pray for us to live this through and be able to heal from the anger and hatred and feel our hearts with love and peace. Please, pray this prayer for all Ukrainians."

As they fear being murdered by an enemy army, they ask for prayer against feeling anger. They ask me to pray that they love their enemies. This is the power of Jesus's love and His gospel, to love our enemies and those who oppress us. This makes Christianity radical and unique. I am stunned at the beauty and humility of humans whose souls have been transformed by Jesus to feel this way.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

O Lord, Bless Even Me!

 What do we want, if we could be given the best gifts in the universe?

We want to possess the kingdom of heaven, to have it be ours. We want comfort.  And in addition to possessing heaven, we would actually like to own earth too. We want both. We want to be satisfied, for all our longings and needs to be met fully. We want mercy, kindness to be extended to us. We would love to see God! How thrilling that would be! We want to be called by everyone, "children of God," and to be shown as His children by receiving vast rewards in heaven. We'd frankly like to have all that right now.

Jesus tells us how to have all these blessings:

Be poor (or crushed, or small) in spirit, be in mourning become you're in grief, be gentle, and hunger and thirst for righteousness (do we, ever?). Be merciful to others, pure in our hearts, and be peacemakers. Be very glad when we are reviled, persecuted, insulted, and ill-treated for Jesus's sake; this is the supreme blessing!

For months now, we've been reciting the Beatitudes each Sunday during worship. I've pondered them. They're like a burr that gets under your skin, and you must address it. Each time, Adam asks us pointedly, "Christians, how are we blessed of God?" And we reply in unison, "When we are poor in spirit, when we mourn, when we are gentle," and on and on. Each Sunday is is a little harder to say. 

I want the rewards, but I'm reluctant to be the kind of person who gets such rewards, to do the suffering, the self-examination, and the changing. 

We often, in our studies of Christianity, find that Jesus's religion that He's presenting to us, is radical, extremely radical. It tells us a message that no other voice is willing to say. The Beatitudes is certainly one of those messages.

"When you mourn, you are blessed." Try telling that to people!