Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What size will the door be when you reach heaven?

In the past two days we have heard about the "rich young man" in Mark's Gospel. When told that he should "sell all and give it the poor, then come follow Me", the man goes away sad - for he has lots of stuff. Jesus looks at His disciples and says "It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven". The disciples are incredulous. In their culture, material wealth was looked at as a blessing from God and the person owning this wealth was thought to one of God's favorites. When Peter states that they have all given up much to follow Him, Jesus assures them that their reward will be great now on earth and, eventually, in heaven.
This got me thinking - what size will the door be when I reach heaven? I have been "blessed" with much as an American. I have a great home to live in, good cars, and all of the "stuff" I need. I try to keep it all in perspective and put my relationship with God first but I have to admit that it can be tough at times. All of my stuff can be quite distracting. As I am doing an extended period of prayer it can be tempting to check my email. When I know I should be reading a good book I often find myself watching some inane television program.
When my wife and I went to Guatemala several years ago I noticed three things in particular. First, the people are very poor. The men and women have to work VERY hard to keep their families fed, clothed and sheltered. Second, the people are VERY faith-filled. They have a trust for God and His providence that I envy. Third, they are happy people. They don't have all of the distractions in their culture that we have in ours so they are focused on what was important - faith and family. No wonder they are so filled with joy.
It makes you wonder who the truly blessed ones are. We in the United States might look at the people in Third World Countries as cursed because they don't possess all that we do. On the other hand, by Jesus words and my own experience, they seem to have a clearer perspective on life. It keeps me wondering - "what size the door will be for me, for them, for you?"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother, mom, mommy...

I fully realize that almost every person could write a column bragging about their mother. That's just the nature of having a mom and realizing what a blessing she has been. But I want to give you just a few sentences about my mother today. She is a remarkable person who deserves many accolades.
My mom grew up in northeastern South Dakota on a farm during the Depression. She had a very abusive father who terrorized the family through alcoholic fits. He abandon them several times and nearly starved them to death more than once. As mom grew up she realized that this type of behavior was generational and that she had the potential of passing down that curse on her own family. So, before she was even a mom, she forgave her dad and prayed for the grace to be able to live in a different way for her future family. She made a decision not to pass on the curse she had lived with but to raise her family in blessing. Before I was born she gifted me. What a great mom!
Today, she is in the nursing home suffering from Parkinson's disease and the severe dementia that goes with it. Her thoughts are very confused and she doesn't always know where she is or what's going on. Although it's difficult to see her in this state, my brothers and sister and I still thank God for the way she loved us even when we didn't recognize her. She taught all of us how to forgive and how to live in the present. She always reminded us that we needed to let the negative experiences from our past be in the past. She taught us to take the blessing of an experience and live in that blessing, to forgive those who made life hell, and to remember that God loves us through it all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Advocate

According to the dictionary, an advocate is "one who promotes, defends, and supports the interests of another". It's easy to see an advocate at work in the court system. A lawyer or court appointed person defends, supports and promotes the interests of their client. This person advises and recommends the client based on a sound legal position.
In John's Gospel (16: 5-11), Jesus tells His disciples that is better that He goes so the Advocate can come in His place. What an unbelievable statement! Which of the disciples would have believed that their could be anyone who could take Jesus' place. But that Advocate is the One who leads, guides, and supports the Church today. That Advocate is the same Spirit that emboldened the Apostles and others on Pentecost Sunday. That Advocate is the One who bolstered up Paul as he preached all across Asia Minor, oftentimes being rejected, beaten, and even stoned by the people.
And that Advocate is the same Spirit that works in each of us today. It's easy to sit around and find fault with the world, with our country, with our Church, etc. But we have in us the means, indeed the power, to bring about change. Christians MUST rely on the Advocate as they go about their day witnessing to the truth of Jesus Christ in love. Otherwise we are the noisy cymbals and the clanging gongs.
It would be foolish for an accused man to speak for himself in court. He could only hurt his case and destroy the efforts of his advocate.  It is foolish for us to think that we can affect any change in the world by our own efforts. Today, pray "Come Holy Spirit" and then rely on the Advocate of Father and Son to lead, guide and promote your words and actions.

"Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."