Lenten Meditation: Choose Life

Lent

HearingGodFrom today’s meditation at The Word Among Us:

Choose life … (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The Israelites were just about to enter the Promised Land. Forty years of waiting and wandering had finally come to an end, and Moses was preparing the people for the next phase of their history: the time when God would bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey.

So standing before the Israelites, Moses issued them the most important challenge they would ever hear. Would they choose life by following Yahweh’s commands? Or would they choose death by following their own ways and the ways of the nations around them?

This challenge didn’t come out of nowhere. Moses had already spent much time reminding them of all the Lord had done. He reminded them how God had delivered them from Egypt and continued to offer them his protection. He spoke of how manna showed up every morning, and quail every evening. He told them that even their clothes did not wear out as they wandered in the desert. But now the time had come for the people to decide for themselves to live under God’s protection. The manna would stop, and so would the quail. God’s miraculous provision would end so that they could choose the way of life, the way of faithful obedience.

Today the Lord stands before us and offers us the same call and promise. He is asking us to choose life, not death. He is asking us to follow his commands and share his love with one another. And he is promising that if we do, he will be with us to strengthen us and lift us into his presence.

Our God has already performed so many miracles for us: he has risen from the dead; he has opened heaven to us; he has filled us with his Holy Spirit; he has given us every gift and blessing we need for our everyday lives.

Now the choice is ours. Will we choose life and live in his presence and know his love? Or will we choose death and live a life of isolation and loneliness?

“Father, you are the author of life. I choose to follow you and heed your voice. Thank you for calling me and filling me with your infinite love.”

JesusHandWhat a perfect meditation not only for the second day of Lent but for Valentine’s Day! It’s a reminder of who the author of love is – God – who calls us again and again to choose life in the Spirit and to share that with everyone around us. These past four years especially have been extremely difficult for so many people with rampant unemployment; skyrocketing energy prices and insurance premiums; the steady rise in food prices; and the continuing escalation of violence around the world. Add to that a culture in decay that glorifies the absolute worst in human behavior, elevates celebrities to hero status over true heroes like Chris Kyle and leads people astray by calling good evil and evil good.

Kind of ironic that today’s meditation is about “choosing life” in an age in America where rampant, unfettered, taxpayer-funded abortion is touted as a “right”, and the evil actions of dirty, unethical abortion clinics and their medical personnel are routinely swept under the carpet by a complicit media, all in the name of “reproductive rights”. Not to mention their diabolical disinterest in the many women who suffer extreme emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual trauma as a result of having had one or more abortions.

As for the women whose lives, along with their innocent babies, are snuffed out by abortion?

The media and the so-called feminists prefer to turn a blind eye, lest the truth get in the way of their $542 million payout from the federal government, courtesy of taxpayers, regardless of how they feel about abortion.

Thankfully, new media journalists and news sources like Stacy McCain, LifeNews, Priests For Life and Live Action are doing the excellent, ground-breaking work an honest mainstream media ought to be doing. It’s up to good people everywhere to share these stories with everyone they know, to call attention to the evil within our midst.

UnbornBabyIn another post, I will discuss my disappointment with my fellow conservatives who think social issues like abortion and gay marriage are the reason we are losing elections. As if history hasn’t proven over and over again that when Republicans play the “me too” game, in trying to “out-Democrat” a Democrat, it typically results in the Democrat winning the election. More importantly though, as the film Agenda: Grinding America Down illustrates, economic prosperity is completely intertwined with morality. The American communists understood this well, which is why they set out to rip America away from any and all moral anchors, the better to make our culture “rot” and thus contribute to our financial downfall. If only today’s conservatives understood this too, they wouldn’t be so eager to “call a truce” on social issues.

Certainly in the case of abortion, there’s a pointed economic argument to be made: why on earth should taxpayers be forced to fund Planned Parenthood? Why is the government even involved, since the usual battle cry from the Left is “Get out of my uterus!” Unless of course, it’s to confiscate taxpayer money to fund the consequences of their personal choices, e.g. birth control and abortion. Isn’t there a conservative argument to be made here that everyone on the right can agree upon? Why isn’t anyone in elected office railing against the rampant hypocrisy of the Left, which is more than happy to accept government interference when it suits their agenda?

More on this in another post. In the meantime, wishing you a Valentine’s Day filled with the love of family and friends.

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Five Minutes with the Word: Trust

crownofthorns

Wow, today’s meditation really hits home for me! Like most people, I am not a stranger to disappointment and heartache, whether it concerns longstanding friendships, boyfriends, dates, professional setbacks — you name it. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to spend plenty of time with my married siblings and their kids, it’s also a painful reminder of what might have been. So one of the most spiritually and emotionally healing aspects of my daily reading of Five Minutes with the Word has been the effective way in which it relates Biblical events and people to modern-world problems.

Today’s powerful message focuses on Jesus’ feelings at the Last Supper, feeling abandoned not only by God, but by friends who are about to either betray him or deny him:

“I thought I had toiled in vain …” (Isaiah 49:4)

At the Last Supper, Jesus would certainly have had every reason to be disappointed. For the past three years, he had devoted his life to persuasive preaching; to giving an example of self-sacrifice and uncon­ditional love; and to bringing about dramatic victories over sickness, demonic powers, and even death. Yet no matter how hard he worked, God’s reign on earth still seemed like a distant dream.

Political leaders still dismissed him. Zealots were still relying on swords to usher in the kingdom of God. Religious leaders were jealous of his popularity and threatened by his seeming disregard for their nar­row rules. Many who once followed him enthusiastically had lost their passion or had become afraid and decided to go back home.

Then he looked around the table at his closest friends. He knew that one of them was about to betray him. Another ardently professed life­long loyalty, but Jesus saw that in just a few hours this fellow would deny ever having met him. The rest seemed to be completely unaware of all that hung in the balance. Was it all worth it?

Perhaps we too are facing disap­pointments. Our poor choices may have had devastating consequences for us and those we love. Our dream relationship may seem laden with conflict and hard work. We may feel like we’ve been derailed from the successful career path we had in mind—and through no fault of our own. Church politics seem to be more important than preaching the gospel or serving the needy. Even our own relationship with the Lord may seem weak and impure.

Take heart! Jesus didn’t give up, and neither should you. Whatever disappointment you face today pales before Jesus’ apparent failure on Holy Thursday. But as you imitate John and lean against his chest, you can sense how Jesus in turn is leaning on his Father in total trust. He knows soon enough he will win victory over all the forces of darkness. He knows that he is destined to overcome sin, Satan, and even death itself. And he’s doing it for you! So rest in his victory today, and know that he is with you.

Pray: “Jesus, thank you for your victory on the cross. Fill me with confidence and hope in you.”

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Five Minutes with the Word: Accepting God’s Will

Today’s Lenten meditation from the Word Among Us:

The annunciation of the Lord

I will not tempt the Lord! (Isaiah 7:12)

In today’s first reading, King Ahaz is being offered something that he may not want—a victory that comes not from fighting but from passive waiting. Commissioned by God, the prophet Isaiah has given him an unexpected set of directions about a dangerous military threat: Sit tight, and wait for God to act. Don’t be afraid. In fact, don’t do anything! (Isaiah 7:4,7-9). But with enemies massing on his northern border, Ahaz is scared witless. All the evi­dence tells him that their attack will succeed and that Jerusalem will fall. How can he sit idly by as his king­dom teeters on the edge of such a precipice?

When God tries to bolster his faith—Ask me for a sign, any sign!— Ahaz refuses. But he does so in words that sound so very humble: “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” (Isaiah 7:12). It’s more likely that this pious protest is really a cover for stubbornness. Ahaz insists on going his own way, ignoring the word from Isaiah and pursuing foreign alliances instead—and with unfortunate con­sequences. By rejecting the offer of a sign, Ahaz is also rejecting God’s direction.

Ahaz’ response could hardly be more different from Mary’s yes. Unlike Ahaz, she is ready to trust and act on God’s every word. No crip­pling fears, no stubborn agenda, no false humility. When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to her, Mary has no thought of refusing. Rather, she wants to cooperate! Her puzzled question: “How can this be?” is not a protest but a way of seeking guidance about how to proceed. And though Mary doesn’t ask for a sign, she immedi­ately accepts the one that Gabriel offers (Luke 1:36-37).

Few of us will face decisions as momentous as the ones Mary and Ahaz confronted. Or if we do, they will be very few and very far between. But at the same time, we do face less earth-shaking choices every day. How important it is to get into the habit of telling God: “Thy will be done”! Then, when faced with the bigger decisions, we will find it that much easier to trust and obey our faithful God—just as Mary did!

“Lord, I welcome everything you want to give me. I trust you with all the situations that I find most difficult and perplexing.”

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Five Minutes with the Word: Fruitfulness

fruittree

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it pro­duces much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Have you ever seen a seed ger­minate? While it is in the soil, the skin encasing it splits open. Next, the seed itself splits in two, and the stem and root unfurl. Gradually, the seed grows smaller as it nourishes the new plant. Eventually, the seed disappears altogether. If you were to look at the plant after a while, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what the seed looked like.

What a wonderful image this is of the spiritual life! Like a patient farmer, God is always planting seeds in our hearts, waiting for them to “die” so that they can bear fruit. Each season has its own seeds that need to die—parts of us that need to break open so that new life can come forth. As children, we may be bear­ing the fruit of obedience and trust.

As young married couples, we may be learning to pour our lives out as we start a new family. And as sea­soned adults, our fruit may be that of more active involvement in our com­munity or church.

Again, like a wise gardener, only God knows which seeds need to sprout for each season. It’s no use trying to double guess him. And there’s no need. After all, he knows what he is doing!

Try something different in your prayer today. Look back over your life, and try to identify times when a “seed” had to die so that God could bring something new into your life. Ask yourself: “Well, I survived, didn’t I? And I’m better off for having gone through it, aren’t I?”

Now, having reviewed your past, see if there is something that God wants to do in your present. He is never finished with us! There’s always more that he wants to give us—if only we will let him bring life out of death!

Pray: “Lord, I want to bear fruit for your kingdom! Help me to shed my comfortable shell so that I can grow in ways even I can’t imagine!”

Are you in position of having to start your life over? That’s where I find myself these days, which is why this particular meditation has so much relevance. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to take a personal inventory of the past, bless the experience and discover why God has placed me in this current situation. I’ve been having trouble allowing the seed to die, as this meditation reminds us is necessary to bear new fruit, but I am looking forward to letting go and finding out what God has in store for this next phase.

If you’re in a similar situation, perhaps we can do it together and share our experiences.

Have a blessed Sunday!

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Five Minutes with the Word: Humility

MaryJesus

Today’s Lenten meditation:

“We know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” (John 7:27)

The conflict about the origins of Jesus arose because of a popu­lar belief that the Messiah’s origins would be hidden. Since the people at the Temple claimed to know Jesus’ family and hometown, they con­cluded that he could not possibly be the Messiah. The problem was that the people were thinking about Jesus’ human and earthly origins, but Jesus was referring to his divine and heav­enly origins.

Jesus challenged the people about their relationship with the Father who had sent him. If they knew the Father and wanted to do his will, the mystery of Jesus’ origin would be unveiled to them: “Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). Clearly, Jesus was speaking on one level—infinite, heavenly, spiritual— and the people were listening on another—finite, earthly, unspiritual.

The clash between these two cre­ated a mounting hostility among the people. Because they were trying to figure Jesus out through their human reasoning alone, they were not open to ideas that didn’t agree with their own logic. Because they relied only on earthly reasoning, they ended up stifling the “spirit that gives life” (John 6:63).

Like these Jews, we too can fall into the trap of striving to know Jesus through human reasoning alone. But Jesus calls us to know him on a higher level through the power of his Spirit, whom he gives to anyone who loves him and obeys him. On our own, we can know a lot about Jesus, but only through the Spirit can we know Jesus.

If you want to know Jesus more deeply this Lent, take on the attitude of humility that people like Mary, John, and Peter had. Humility means loving Jesus more than we love our­selves. It means becoming like children and relying on the Spirit to teach us through the liturgy, prayer, Scripture, and the events of our lives. It really is possible to know the Lord!

“Jesus, give me a humble heart so that I can discover you more deeply. Fill me with a greater affection for you so that I can surrender more of my life to you.”

 

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