On Holy Thursday, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to His disciple, "...are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."
Today, I ask you: are you asleep? Can you not spend one hour a week watching and praying to Jesus to protect you from tests and trials? Do you find other things to do even though you feel you should spend some time in thanks, praise and prayers in God's House?
Or do you go to church and think of other things while you are there or check out who is attending? Do you listen to the sermon and apply it to your life? If you have a church that has communion, do you receive it and quickly walk out the door once you have and not spent some time in the communion of soul with Christ that you just received?
Once you form a relationship with Jesus, you will feel differently about praying and praising Him. Forming a relationship with Him is easy; simply find a quiet place and talk to Him. In your own words and feelings. Ask Him to lead you, teach you and give you the gift of Himself. He will answer you - he answers in different ways. He may answer you in thought, or feelings, or signs and acts. You will feel it.
Once your spirit is willing, your flesh will no longer be weak. You will be stronger in any and all tests that may come your way. Peace will be yours. He will guide you and hold your hand. You will never be alone again.
We celebrate Easter through His death and resurrection to be the light and inspiration in our lives now and forever.
If you want to know Christ intimately, pray to the Holy Sprit for Wisdom and Understanding and read the Bible - start with the New Testament and Jesus' Words. You will receive a Gift that will save your life. Forever.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we simply can't get along with everybody. If we are lucky, we have good relationships with our family and friends and in-laws, but every once in awhile, there is someone who becomes a literal ‘thorn in our side.' Sometimes, it is apparent why this happens. But other times, as much as we analyze and pick the relationship apart, conversation by conversation, we can't understand totally why this happens. Call it karma, call it fate, call it 'that's life in the big city' ~ it can play havoc with our lives. This is especially so, if it is a family member, a spouse, or an in-law. What do you do when it is a sibling, a parent or God forbid, a spouse?
I was immersed in a dysfunctional relationship where emotions on both sides overrode logic. I tried my best to avoid social encounters with this person. When I couldn't or didn't, I either bit my tongue in all conversations, held back lashing back to a minimum, or feigned sickness to avoid meetings. On occasion, I worked more, socialized less or buried myself in a book.
When this person was present, I felt stressed and prayed that the day turned out okay and not into a fiasco. Others were counting on me to mend the gap and just 'keep cool' or 'chill out' or anything short of sitting on me and duct-taping my mouth. They told me silence was golden. Even silence was stressful.
I tried many different avenues of being civil, thinking it may work out. But, when it didn’t work out, there was always a ‘stress' situation.
This was a 'long-history person' in my life. We simply were like mixing oil and water. We always were. Words spoken were not taken the way they were meant. Get togethers became strained. Attempts to make it better made it worse; and the chasm opened wide and threatened to swallow us.
This relationship caused additional spiritual stress for me: didn't God tell us to forgive seventy times seven? Aren't we supposed to 'love one another as He loves us"? How could I reconcile this fractured relationship with my faith? How could I change into something I wasn't or accept what I couldn't. I knew I could not or want to change this person. Over time, it was apparent it was futile and there was no solution.
One day, at church service, there was a vtisiting minister. His topic was "You Can't Get Along With Everybody." I was all ears. His sermon was loving, prayerful, scriptural and reality. He looked out at all of us and said, "You have to face the fact that you won't get along with everybody in life - it could even be someone close, a loved one or even a child of yours or a parent. You simply will not have a good relationship with him or her."
And then he offered, "Even Jesus did not get along with everyone. As a native Nazarene, he was not always welcome in his own neighborhood; people mocked him that "he was a carpenter's son - how can he think he is a Son of God; we knew him as a child playing. Jesus left his hometown and started traveling with his ministry. And when he and/or the Apostles were not welcome in a town, he told them to 'wipe the dust off their feet' and move on."
I talked with the minister after the service and told him how badly I felt about this relationship that I just couldn't seem to embrace or change. He answered, "There are some relationships you can't fix. Thank God they are few, but they simply will never be what they are supposed to be. Sometimes you have to walk away and leave them. Withdraw from them; they will eventually harm you. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on." BUT,...he continued…."Always ~ ALWAYS, pray for that person, forgive them and forgive yourself. But always pray for them."
This minister was not suggesting that I disregard any and all people that I had difficulty with and wipe them off like dust. We are all imperfect. And this wasn't a case of one being right or one being wrong - we were simply incompatible.
I found a serene feeling of letting go that day. And I followed his advice. I also began praying for that person. And that was very difficult for me. The first few prayers were stifled and stiff and seemed to get stuck in my throat. It felt so insincere. But I kept at it and in time, sincerely meant the prayer. I pray for this person to this day. I pray for peace and well-being. I remind myself that they are loved as a child of God just as I am.
With my change in attitude and prayer, I feel differently about this person. We may never be close or never see each other again, but the awful feelings of animosity and dread are gone. There is no judgment or blame here -- it's just that...."As one face differs from another, so does one's heart."
But even different hearts can learn to live in peace with themselves. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Louis B. Smedes
In our fast track world, people like instant gratification, or at least quick results. Disappointments can occur if your expectations are too high. You can become disenchanted with people, places and things. This can happen even in the place you go to for rest, renewal and refuge - your place of worship. For simplification of terms, I will call it a church.
As part of a faith-sharing group, I listened to multi-denominations share their expectations and disappointments regarding their Saturday, Sunday or any day of worship.
1} Many of the group did not like the emphasis of the church asking for money. Some of them complained that it was an on-going practice. We all know that worship establishments have bills like the rest of us. They pay electricity, heating and air conditioning, cleaning, taxes, salaries, etc. Usually the church offers a balance sheet of where the money is going. If not, offer to be part of the Finance Committee. You will see where it goes and have a voice in how it is distributed. If you are not asked to join, most Finance Committees have an open door policy whereby you can sit in and listen to where the money is going. If they don’t, initiate one by addressing it to the building or church administrator.
2} Closely related to regular collections is the matter of tithing. How much treasure do you tithe? Tithing is explained in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year." The definition of the tithe was very simple and plainly laid out for Israel. They were to gather their harvest and count the tithe out from what they’ve gathered. For instance, if you had 100 apples, you must count them out from one-to-ten, and the tenth one you set aside for the Lord – Leviticus 27:32. Today, many denominations pay heed to the 10% of income for church tithing. And many people complain that they cannot afford that. I am not here to argue church’s expectations of tithes or what you should give. I believe that it is an individual choice - some give more; some give less and it should be a personal, private choice and not made public. What you give is between you and God no matter how much or how many times you are asked.
3} Some of the group complained of their leader, minister, pastor or priest. They simply did not like him or her. They did not feel (s)he was leading the congregation correctly, said improper things, was insensitive, and many other things. In other words, (s)he was imperfect. We all are imperfect. Even church leaders. It is a difficult life for many of these leaders; it is a solitary life, especially if they don’t have partners to share stress with. And there is a lot of work and stress. Besides juggling the church’s expenses, administration, activities and worship programs, the church leader also give counsel, oversees funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms, etc. etc. They are very busy people and churches are usually short-handed. If you don’t like the leader's mode of operation, volunteer to do some of the leg work he or she does routinely. We have ministry programs to give communion to hospital or shut-ins, bereavement committees help with funerals; there are countless things you can do to help an overworked religious leader. And they LOVE home-cooked meals AND the company - invite them to dinner; you may see another side of them.
4} Everyone complained about children and small babies at church. Especially the fidgety and wailing variety. I admit that I use to complain about this, too. Religious leaders always welcome children to church - some churches have separate glassed rooms for young ones to prevent disrupting the congregation. My feeling is that children who attend church with their parents from an early age quickly adjust and become part of the church family/community easily and lovingly. It is natural for them to be there with family and most likely will duplicate this faith with their own families someday in the same way.
5} Some of the group complained they did not like the people in their church community; they were too high class, too low-class, too gossipy, and the beat goes on. We don’t go to church for the people - we go to church for God.
They lament they will go to another church. There are people all around us we may not care for - maybe even in our own families, but we don’t go look for another family. Many times, the dislikes you feel are cosmetic; you may not really know the other people and let’s face it, you don’t have to socialize with them. You attend church with them, same as attending college or any social gathering. Focus on why you are in church; and don’t focus on the people. You can be friendly and sincere, but you don’t have to live with them. Even Jesus had altercations with his twelve disciples. Peter and James wanted the honor of being on His right and left side in heaven to the consternation of the other ten. Another time, ’An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." Jesus didn’t replace them; and he didn’t go to another town looking for 12 different disciples. There will always be church members in ANY church you may not see eye to eye with, but you are there to worship and they are part of the community. Maybe they harbor similar feelings about you. Bloom where you are planted and try to grow in faith with everyone, especially those who are different from you. You are there to worship; not judge your brothers and sisters.