There is a story in the Gospels about a man with a sick child, believing that Jesus can heal his child, comes to Jesus and says the most amazing thing, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief.”  It is not the most read story in the Gospels, and is often overlooked.  But I love this story of Jesus, of the man, of the need for healing, of the fragile beauty of being human when the father says to Jesus, “Lord…help my unbelief.”

If that verse of Scripture were translated exactly as it was in the Aramaic, it would be more truthfully written, “Lord, I believe but help me where my faith falls short.”

In truth, I have found my faith and my freedom in this little translation.  This verse is what sustains me when I pray amidst my doubt.  When faith is called upon to carry me and I am weak.  When I am called to stand with and for others and I shrink back and tremble.  And when I have nothing left, and I cry out to God in anguish and anger, empty over the state of my life, hating every part of my existence, when THAT is all I have left, the man in this story taught me to pray: Lord, I believe, but help me where my faith falls short.

In those eleven words comes the freedom to be raw and real with my God; to bare my arid soul before my Creator all but begging for mere scraps of Divine Love and Presence.  In those words, I am reminded that even my faith is a gift from God; even the lack of my faith is a gift from God.  It is as if I am stranded on a cliff and my rope is a few inches too short to reach the top to pull myself up, and God is the extra few inches of rope, God is the ledge; God is the very space between the end of my rope and the hope of my rescue.

In these moments of life, when I cannot see salvation, when I cannot find love in my heart, when bitterness and rage strangle my spirit…it is then that I cry out in a voice raw and raspy from screams and sickness: Lord, I believe…but help me where my faith falls short.

And it is enough.

“God invites us, perhaps even challenges us, to become co-creators and co-collaborators in birthing fledgling dreams and in encouraging fragile seeds that have lain dormant within us.  When I finally acknowledged, honored and acted upon this truth that I perceived within, I experienced God’s presence as never before!   With this acknowledgement I began to recover a greater acceptance of myself and also deeper relationships with God and the rest of God’s world – relationships which are all interconnected.

As I became more aware of the presence of God in my life, I also became more attentive to the deeper promptings and leadings within my own being and began to look more honestly and objectively at my own gifts and resources.” (Introduction, p. i)

“To step out in faith is to experience risk and uncertainty, but it is also to experience God’s loving embrace and continued steadfastness.”  (p. iii)

By Ruth Halvorson, founder of ARC Retreat Center and quoted in Action Reflection Celebration: the ARC story

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

When asked what the greatest law was, the Law of laws, Jesus replied that it is to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbors the same way, and ourselves as well.

This commandment is not the only one, but as the first and greatest commandment all other ‘laws’ and requirements must be filtered and interpreted through this one.  When I ask is it ‘lawful’ to do hate, to protest, to seek revenge, to discriminate, it must first be viewed through the standard of the Greatest Law: to love God, neighbor and self with our entire beings.

All other laws are judged by this one. 

So sexual laws, dietary laws, racists laws, cultural laws, and the like are judged – or should be scene, interpreted and lived out – through the lens of this great commandment.

So whenever I want to interpret other sayings in the Bible, like the writings of Paul or any of the Jewish laws, or even the laws that govern this land – as a follower of Jesus – I am compelled to interpret ALL of them through this Great Law Of Love.

I could say that when in doubt (about something) err on the side of Love.

When I hear or read any doctrine, dogma, or theology of any faith, I view it through the Great Law of love, and if it is found wanting, I must set aside for the greater good of loving.  When I read about Christians or people of other or no faith saying “hate this” or “hate that” I must ask, what would God’s love do?  How would God’s love respond?

As I peruse the news, the overwhelming saturation of hate and hateful deeds sickens me.  We have lost out way.  We have succumbed to our lesser demons and left out better angels out to die.

Love.  Love.  Love.

We must return again and again to this Great Law – the Law of love – and live our lives from that ‘legal system’.  If we do not we may be doomed to our darkness and misery.

The emphasis on God’s saving power is very orthodox, but is it serving love or efficiency? God is only a power source for grace, like a cosmic outlet we must plug ourselves into to achieve the ends we want. This is the God of foxholes, of despair, the God whose only purpose is to rescue us. There is certainly nothing wrong with seeing God as savior; it is just that God is and wants to be so much more than that. Many of us come to an awareness of our desire for love through our need for some kind of healing or recovery….

But this can only be the beginning of authentic spiritual life. As we grow in love, the source of love becomes more important than anything. Although the holy One continues to be deliverer and sustainer, love calls us beyond using God to satisfy our needs, to heal us, to get us out of trouble, or to enhance our efficiency.

Love calls us to gratitude, relinquishment, celebration, service, play, praise, companionship, intimacy, communion, and always to deeper yearning. In other words, love calls us to love.

,

“The Divine action may turn our lives upside down; it may call us into various forms of service.  Readiness for any eventuality is the attitude of one who has entered into the freedom of the Gospel.  Commitment to the new world that Christ is creating requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another.

Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness.  This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future.

“The love of God will take care of the rest of the journey … ”

Fr. Thomas Keating

Note form Niles: Today’s post is taken from one of my favorite online writers and sites, Internet Monk.  The live link to the site is found at the end of the article.

“Bearing (and Sharing) Burdens” – Chaplain Mike

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

Sometimes as I deal with my patients and their caregivers, it’s the religious people that befuddle me most. One cliché I have heard repeatedly from caregivers who are people of faith is, “I just try to remember that God tells us he will never give us more than we can bear.”

I hate to burst your bubble, but God never said that. Never. Said. That.

I’m not sure where that cliché came from, but it is not in the Bible. Jesus didn’t say it. Paul said something like it in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but if you check you will see that he is talking about our common temptations and how God provides the means we need to escape them. The text does not say, “God will never give us more than we can bear.” Nope. Somebody made that one up.

The plain fact is that there are burdens in life that are too heavy for any one person to carry.

For some reason, many well-intentioned folks don’t want to accept that. So they try to handle challenges that are simply beyond their ability to deal with alone. The results usually aren’t good.

That’s when I direct them to another verse in the Bible that is clear and unambiguous: “Bear one another’s burdens…” Is not this verse telling us that everyone needs help sometimes? There are loads that are too heavy for one person to carry, and we can’t do it all by ourselves. So, help each other out! That’s pretty clear, right?

One more thing: I also won’t buy it if you tell me that since God helps you carry your burdens, you don’t need other people to assist you. This is the same God who said that it is not good for us to be alone. God created us to live in relationships, families, and communities for the very purpose of loving and supporting each other. God wants you to get help from others!

Instead of what I often hear, I’d love it if more caregivers would say, “God regularly gives me more than I can bear. That’s why I love and appreciate his gift of others in my life so much.”

 

By Chaplain Mike.  Original can be found at Internet Monk.

Mysticism is where religions start. Moses with his flocks in Midian, Buddha under the Bo tree, Jesus up to his knees in the waters of Jordan-each of them is responding to Something of which words like Shalom, Nirvana, God even, are only pallid souvenirs. Religion as ethics, institution, dogma, ritual, Scripture, social action – all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less.

Religions start, [Robert Frost said] as poems do, with a lump in the throat – to put it mildly – or with a bush going up in flames, a rain of flowers, a dove coming down out of the sky. “I have seen things,” Aquinas told a friend, “that make all my writings seem like straw.”

Most people have also seen such things. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of their lives, most of them have caught glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by. Only then, unlike the saints, they tend to go on as though nothing has happened.

We are all more mystics than we choose to let on, even to ourselves. Life is complicated enough as it is.

Written & copyrighted by Frederick Buechner (originally published in Wishful Thinking and again in Beyond Words)

love each other deeply.jpg

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

The journey towards healing can feel at times like a disjointed rummaging through the crevices of our souls seeking out the darker corners in order to let in the warm sunlight of God’s love.  Healing is sometimes akin to things like beauty, truth and spirituality: they are things that are ineffable yet real and rather than define them, they define us.

This rag-tag, one foot in the front of the other, one day at a time journey is the journey of a lifetime that occurs in every diminutive detail and every instance.  And I cannot necessarily define my healing journey or necessarily point to specific scars as evidence.  The very things I am being healed of have been accrued over a life filled with the paradoxes of poor choices and God’s ever intervening grace, with both being somewhat messy yet always real.

I am velveteen rabbit-like in my journey for you see my eyes are popping off, my fur is being rubbed off, my stuffing pulled from my fragile innards, yet I know I am loved…loved by a generous and gracious God.  Oddly enough, I even know this at this precise moment when I do not ‘feel’ or sense it.

At this juncture I am peeling away the dried mud of anger and resentment that has splattered me after hitting the proverbial fan. I am not in a tender place, or feeling very forgiving, and I most certainly am not sensing God’s presence.

But none of that matters.

God is faithful even when my feelings are not.  God is before me.  God is beside me.  God is within me.  God is to my East, my West, my South and my North.  God is in my ups and my downs.  God is the Constant Companion on this journey towards healing and God is the Final Destination of this journey.

And like it or not, believe it or not, feel it or not I surrendered my life to God and God IS Love; not fleshly love, not feeble love, not finite love.  No!  God IS Love: all consuming, all powerful, all present, all knowing and ever-faithful LOVE.  And regardless of what friend or foe says to me or about me, THAT truth is the motive, the power, the hunger, and the reason for this journey I am taking back Home.

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