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Spiritual Mantra for Challenging Times

6/22/2016 11:11 AM

In many fitness organizations trainers often encourage their clients to develop a Mantra of thoughts that will help them make progress in their physical training goals.  I would suggest that just as this is done in physical training programs, a similar practice can help us in our spiritual life.

In working out at a gym a trainer may suggest to a client who is exercising and feeling very tired or weak to repeatedly say to him or herself : "I am strong."

In our spiritual life there are times we may feel spiritually tired, weak or exhausted.  When that happens repeat these adapted words from Isaiah 40:31 as a Mantra "My hope is in the Lord who renews my strength.  I will soar up on wings like an eagle; I will run and not grow weary. I will walk and not faint." 

When a gym workout set before a client seems extremely difficult, a trainer may suggest  the client use a Mantra that goes like this: "I can accomplish this."  In our spiritual journey when we are overwhelmed by life and faith's expectations may seem impossible  try using this as a Mantra that is adapted from Philippians 4:13; "I can do everything through him ho gives me strength."  Or, you may repeat to yourself these words adapted from Matthew 19:26; "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

A trainer may say to a discouraged athlete that thinks the training is going nowhere: "Trust the process."  But when we are feeling the same way and become spiritually paralyzed thinking we will throw in the towel, try another biblical Mantra.  This one comes from Psalm 125:1; "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures."  Now make it your personal Mantra repeatedly saying: "I trust in the Lord and shall be like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures."  

It is often helpful for us to use scripture verses as spiritual Mantra. Doing so can strengthen our mindset and keep us mindful of where our strength comes from in tough times.  As you try these suggestions, pray for God's lead in your life.  May you find the spiritual attitude and strength your faith can provide by engaging in this practice during life's challenging times.



Again Our Tears Flow

6/14/2016 11:30 AM

Once again our nation mourns with another one of its communities (this time Orlando) in the senseless and violent loss of human life.  We offer our prayers.  We shed our tears of sorrow.  Our hearts and minds are in shock and disbelief at such horror.

What happened in Orlando is sadly not new to our nation.  In December of this past year a couple murdered 14 people in California.  Last November a gunman killed three at a Colorado Planned Parenthood site.  Last October another gunman slaughtered 9 at a Navy Reserve Center.  A year ago an assailant entered a church in South Carolina taking the lives of 9 people.  A year ago this past May, 9 people were killed in a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs and police in Texas.  The list of shootings goes on and on including the savage killing of children at Sandy Hook; another senseless slaughter in a Colorado movie theater, shootings at various school campuses and too many more elsewhere.

The reasons and rational for each of these horrific shootings may have varied with each of the assailants.  But each of these violent acts has grown out of some expression of out of control rage and anger. Each of these acts was deadly and violent.  Each has resulted in great outpouring of prayers, tears and a rejection of violence.  Yet, our society has yet to come together in a meaningful way to stop the violence.  We as a society are torn and divided as to how to deal with these atrocities.  There are those who think it is justified to attack those with whom they disagree, as illustrated by some right to life advocates who justify in their minds taking of life from those who perform abortions.  There are those who think it is justifiable  to "eliminate" those whom they perceive as a threat to their beliefs and values.  Many of our movies glorify violence as a means of problem solving.  Many video games play upon violence calling it entertainment or fantasy.

Have we forgotten holy writ commands us not to kill or murder -- that we are to love our enemies -- that we are to return no one evil for evil?  Abe Lincoln once quoted scripture saying "a house divided against itself cannot long stand."  It seems to me that we as a diverse people must come together and put aside the things that divide us and polarize us so we can embrace a common solution to a common series of events that has become increasingly all too frequent.  As a nation we must develop a united understanding that two wrongs do not make a right.  As a people of faith (diverse in our understandings as we may be) we must unite and realize that what threatens the life of anyone, even those with whom we object, threatens the life of anyone of us.

Saying we are holding those who mourn in prayers -- saying the violence must end is not enough.  We must in sacrificial love, let go of our sacred cows that divide us, and work for a common solution to reduce, if not end the parade of these horrific events. 




Recovering the Art of Saying Good-bye

6/6/2016 9:32 AM

Saying good-bye is never easy for many of us, especially when we have built friendships and care about people we are leaving, as life takes us in new directions.  When I left my first parish to accept a call to serve as pastor elsewhere, feelings ran deep.  I had shared a lot with those I was leaving.  We had rejoiced at births, baptisms, and weddings.  We had experienced the sadness of deaths and funerals.  Through the joys and sorrows of our common life as a community of faith we had struggled with difficult issues, accomplished some good things, and sometimes agreed to disagree.  They knew me in all my strengths and weaknesses, just as I knew them.  Through it all we had a sense of belonging to one another for  our lives had become intertwined.

When it came time for me to move on, feelings rand deep.  I was excited about the new opportunities and challenges being offered me in a new ministry.  Yet, I was sad to leave people with whom I had shared so much.  It was not easy for either of us to let go and say good-bye.  Together we had developed trust, a comfort zone with each other.  We had a history and meaningful relationships.  It would have been so easy to have simply left without saying good-bye.  But that would not have been caring or respectful, let alone Christian.

The people I was leaving needed to understand why I needed to move on from them.  I needed to say thank you for what was good in our time together, and celebrate the time we shared, recalling the laughter and the tears -- celebrating our accomplishments and disappointments -- and ultimately affirming our love and care for one another.  Saying good-bye is a way of saying I love you and thank God for our time together and what we may have learned from one another.

But saying good-bye seems to be a lost art today.  It seems some people find it easier to leave churches, groups and individuals behind without saying good-bye.  Perhaps not saying good-bye is because there never really was a relationship with the other being left behind. Or perhaps we don't say good-bye because it is painful.  Or maybe it hurts to acknowledge something has changed in a relationship to a person, group, or congregation.  The avoidance of saying good-bye may be a bi-product of one's own disappointment, anger, or a number of other emotions one does not want to process or own.  Our culture is so into the moment that we sometimes fail to realize how our presence and our absence may impact others. Hopefully this is not a reflections that we simply don't care.  That would be a sad commentary on us.

When people have quietly left my life without saying good-bye, I have felt a sense of loss. I wondered why did they leave.  Was it something I did or failed to do or say?  There are so many questions that linger in the mind of those left behind without a real good-bye.

In scripture Jacob and Esau, who did not have the closest of brotherly relationships, managed to come to terms with their differences and say good-bye, wishing each other God's blessing.  A healthy spiritual life recognizes the importance of saying good-bye when our lives are called in new directions from those we've traveled with in life. This is important for those being left behind as well as for the person or group that departs. Saying good-bye is a caring and grace filled act of love and respect, both for the person leaving and for those who are left.  Saying good-bye is also a Christ-like thing, for we see in the gospels various times Jesus spoke to his followers about his leaving them.  Jesus did this in his conversations and by his prayers for them. 

Thinking we don't need to say good-bye to one another (whether for a temporary absence or for the long-term) may say as much about ourselves as our neglect of saying good-bye may say about those left behind.