Please Pray For Asia Bibi

 

Today, tomorrow, the next day, and thereafter, until she is released unharmed and she and her family come to a place of safety, I will be praying for Asia Bibi.  Please help by praying for her too.  Her situation is really tragic and dire, and anything you can do to help will be a blessing.

Bibi, a Christian woman living in Pakistan, got into a dispute with other women in her village about sharing a water jug or glassAfter she offered them water,  the other women refused to drink from the same container saying it was unclean.  An argument ensued. These other women, who are Muslim, afterward accused Asia of “dishonoring” the prophet, which under Pakistan’s blasphemy law carries the penalty of death.  Bibi was tried in court and, despite denying the blasphemy charge, was sentenced to be hanged.

Salmaan Taseer, a Muslim who held the post of governor of Punjab, took up her cause and argued that this law was unjust and being used unfairly against Bibi.  Earlier this year, he was murdered by a member of his own security detail, who shot him 26 times with a submachine gun.  Taseer’s assassin, while in police custody, was showered with rose petals by supporters.  Mullahs throughout the country warned that if anyone even grieved for Taseer, they were exposing themselves to the same fate.

Another courageous and merciful man, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who held the position of Federal Minister for (Religious) Minority Affairs, then took up Bibi’s cause.  He also argued against the blasphemy law and claimed the charges against Bibi were baseless and concocted.  On March 2, he died in a hail of bullets when a car carrying a group of gunmen pulled in front of his car and they opened fire on him.

Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, both highly visible public figures in Pakistan, believed in freedom of conscience and authentic faith in God.  For this strong and true belief, both willingly and courageously walked the path of martydom.  Those who killed them seek to place God’s loving faith in chains and seek to take away from others the blessing of free will.  Yet, in accordance with the wisdom and love of the most high, God freely gave this blessing to the first man, even knowing this first man would then succumb to the temptation to take what wasn’t his (so the child sin follows closely after its father).  May the glory and all the blessings of God, whom Taseer and Bhatti served so faithfully, be with them and theirs forever.

This past June, Bibi passed the two year mark on her time in jail.  She fears she could be murdered in jail, like Qamar David, a 55-year-old Catholic who was serving a life sentence for blasphemy.  Extremist groups have put a bounty on her head of $6,000.  Her husband and children have also been declared to be targets and received death threats.   Saying they are concerned about her safety, authorities have kept her in an isolation cell for 24 hours a day, without even a small break for outside air and sun.

Bibi was relocated to a women-only prison after extremists threatened to blow up the prison where she was staying. She has recently fallen ill with chickenpox, apparently because her room and bed sheets have not been cleaned.  She spends her time fasting and praying for others.

There are many people praying for Bibi.  Please consider joining in this prayer, even if you don’t consider yourself very religious or think your prayer won’t matter.  Every voice is heard by God.  Bibi can certainly use all the help she can get, including yours.  Apparently she has asked for prayers for strength and safety. Thank you so much.

On March 17, 2014, the Lahore High Court will hear Asia Bibi’s appeal.  Dear God, thank you for this beam of hope and grant us a share of your mercy and compassion.  If you are reading this, please consider joining me in prayer for Asia and her family.

UPDATE – The hearing of March 17 has been postponed.  More information may be found at http://asianews.it (or http://asianews.it/en.html).    

 

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Families

Praise God and share the bounty and hope that God gives you more bounty to share!

But share with who?  Was not the Samaritan a good neighbor because he saw the man lying stripped and beaten by the wayside as in some way part of his family?  Largeness of family comes from largness of heart.  

The monastaries in the middle ages were blessings to their communities. It was nott because within their walls was a brotherhood or family, for other organizations walking not in the way of righteousness had that.  Were they not different because they opened their doors wide, offering hospitality to wayfarers from the outside?   Is not hospitality the act of opening your door and treating someone as family who wasn’t family before?  We share our views freely on matters that rest deep in our hearts, but do we share our families?

The harvesters in the fields of God always left a portion for wayfarers and strangers to glean.  Those fishing in the lakes of God didd not strain to catch every fish.  These all trusted in the grace of God and his power to replenish the bounty. What work do you do where you work with God so?

Abraham did not think it beneath his dignity to offer fine meal to complete strangers.  He did not insist first on proof of kinship. Should we suppose he denied them water to slake their thirst?  If an outsider or outcast had come to his tent, however deep or shallow the well, would Abraham have denied their parched tongue a small drink, the very drink of life in the heat of the day?  

Consider Lot to whom the angels of God next went after visiting Abraham.  Lot took in these strangers (angels) and treated them as family, sheltering them in his home even against the violent threats and curses that raged outside.  As Lot and Abraham enlarged their families to include God or those seeming in need of God’s protection and favor, so Lot was protected by God’s angels and God favored Abraham by enlarging his family to number as the stars of heaven.

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.”  Let not heapfuls of our favored staple or the lure of expediency close our eyes to our own continual neediness before God, lest we fail to bless our fields and bread with our good Lord’s diverse bounty and fruitful leaven.  Praise be to God.

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Doors

Dear Lord, I went downtown
For supper
But the shop said closed
For Easter

Not knowing where to go
I strolled a bit
Outside the public library
Found a place to sit

A woman came byy
Tried to open the door
It wouldn’t budge
Easter once more

Ten minutes later
Now a large man
Pulled att the doors
Wouldn’t open again

Not five minutes later
A group of friends threesome
Tugged at the door
They sure were bummed

The man saidd to the ladies
“We had to come
“The one day in the year
“It’s not open”

Others came and went
None with success
Not a question of skill
Strength or finesse

Pondering all this
O God of loving mercy
I had then this vision
Of a door this Easter open
From it light streaming
Most bright
And heavenly

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Two cups

This life
That we carry around on us
Do nott let us hang from it
But merciful God
Deliver us

Even if our cup be full
Of heartache and humiliation
Let us not be tempted to cast it away
For another
Foaming with retribution

Which promises blisss
But at its bottom cling the dregs of sorrow and pain
Strife and desolation
Utter defacement
And agonizing shame

For only in that firstt cup
May be found a precious drop of forgiveness
Which is the Spirit of Holiness and Grace
     The mead of love
     The infusion of life
     The portent of God’s presence
then with us at table, resplendent in glory, of gaze most fetching face-to-face

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Sin and Easter

What is orginal sin but original sickness; a sickness that leads us to depart from the good path and draws us away toward what is not good for us or others.  

Who can live without water?  Yet does not the sickness of rabies draw us away even from drinking?  Other illnessess weaken our eyes, so that we fearr the full brightness of the Sun, and so become pallid, depressed, and develop brittleness even deep within our bones. 

What draws us closer to God?  Is it not blessing and restoration; the reversal of sickness?   Christ said of Paradise, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  Also, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Scripture, or the Gospel in particular, is not justt about healing the body, though Jesus did that, nor only about healing the mind, though Jesus set things in proper order by identifying which of God’s commandments were foremost, but is also about setting aright our hearts and soul, that is, our will and deepest longings.  Here the sweetness and pure goodness and utter loveliness of Jesus’ words and life tug at our hearts, raise our spirit up with hope, andd may, at last, implant a seed of gratitude that will, in fullness of season, bear forth vigorously with fruits of faith and longing for God.

The central question the Gospel answers is what (or who) heals and what love is, that is, what it is like, what does it do and say, and what is its particular beauty and power.  For God is love.  And in the mystery of Easter lies the ever wondrous mystery of God’s resolute faithfulness and abiding kindness, the mystery of God’s Most Holy Love.  

Some will say “heal yourself.”  Yet only through and in sharing of this mystery can we find true healing for our broken, wounded hearts.  Praise be to God.

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A plea for the lives of the 529 people recently convicted in Minya

Under the circumstances, I feel I must plea for the lives of the 529 people convicted of the crime of murdering a police officer in the city of Minya, Egypt.  Dear Lord, please forgive me if I speak out of turn in an affair not my own, for despite my limited understanding of this matter and my distance from this situation and all its consequences, you are a God of “compassion” who “desire[s] mercy, and not sacrifice.”  So I believe this is a desire you want us all to share.  And this is so, even though all people will one day stand in “judgment” before you, as Lord of all.  This is entirely fitting because you created us, you care about us, and you can look into our “innermost parts” and fairly weigh our lives, including our particular burdens and blessings, even better than we can ourselves.  

As I heard it (see article here), these 529 people were convicted (with sixteen others acquitted) “at a mass two-day trial” for killing a police officer, apparently by setting fire to a police station, during riots in Minya after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi. At the first hearing Saturday, it appears the judge rejected a defense request to postpone the case, after which the trial became “chaotic” with 123 defendants, crammed into a caged dock, and their lawyers “chanting slogans at the judge.”  When a defense lawyer demanded his recusal, the judge got “very angry” and adjourned the trial for sentencing, which sentence for death was passed down Monday morning.  The article reported that this sentence, if carried out, would be “the biggest mass execution from a single case in the recent history of Egypt, or anywhere else in the world.”  At the same time, the article noted the opinion of “legal experts” that the sentence will likely be overturned on appeal, rejected by the Grand Mufti, or commuted by the president.

Knowing just this little bit about what happened, I do feel very hesitant to “weigh in,” dear Lord.  Is not the justice of man always but a poor substitute for your divine justice?  For, unlike you, we cannot look into the “innermost parts” of each accused person to assess actual purpose nor fairly appraise the entire life (past, present, and future) of each accused person, which might serve to mitigate, at least to some extent, their actions.  Still, in this world, man must try to redress existing wrongs as best he can.  Even so, there are times, and this appears one of them, when man’s attempt to administer justice falls woefully short of even excusable error, but rather adds to the original offense by heaping a second “wrong” upon the first.

To those who are charged with administering justice in this matter, I would ask this: do you really believe all 529 people were equally guilty of murder?  Were there no instigators of violence?  No ringleaders?  No seekers after death who, with advance malice, came prepared with weapons and the materials to set the fire that burned down the station (assuming they knew someone was inside)?  And if all 529 people were not equally guilty, then why were all equally sentenced?   Is it not basic justice to require that the penalty be scaled to the offense?  And if you, and indeed no one in Egypt, or for that matter anywhere, actually believes all 529 were equally guilty, is not this presumed act of “justice” in fact only a “travesty.”  Can anyone in their heart-of-hearts believe any differently?  

Perhaps this mass sentence was handed down on the principle that they are all “troublemakers” or “terrorists” or “Morsi supporters” or “involved in some way.”  With a little thought, it will be readily seen how such a principle is ripe for abuse.  During the Second World War, when the Nazis murdered whole villages in retribution for the murder of a single army official, they also relied on such a principle.  So too, in the Massacre at Beziers in 1209, when the abbot who accompanied the besiegers of the town was asked how to distinguish the faithful from the heretics, he invoked a similar principle, saying “Kill them all, God will sort his own.”   Are not such deeds recorded in history as acts of great viciousness and infamy?  If history has not looked kindly on such actions, we should not suppose that God, who is certainly at least as compassionate as man, will look kindly on them either.    

Insofar as reputation is concerned, these are worldly considerations, but the major religions of the world share, or so I havve heard, a common principle of right action, which is to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated (as to Christians, we are to “love” others as ourselves).  If the shoe were on the other foot, then, just because someone is “very angry” at me and too upset to listen to any defense I might make and just because they can, should this be deemed sufficient grounds to allow them to sentence me to death?   How, then, can one tell apart a judge, who presumably is an impartial upholder of the law (which at its best applies to all equally), from a terrorist, who in practice is limited only by personal whim with recourse, as convenient, to some pretense of blood-soaked dogma?

For those to whom faith is primary, there are other and higher considerations.  Looking ahead a bit, do we ttruly suppose that God, who justly deserves to be called compassionate given all the blessings he has bestowed upon man, will be delighted to hear that we have extended the banner of death on earth?   If we, using the authority we have been given in this world, choose to measure out death for others, then why should we expect that God, when we come to his domain in heaven, will choose life for us?  

Is it not part of our rightful calling, while we are here on earth, to see the bounty and goodness that God has brought to our lives, and to praise God for it?   And also, as caretakers of faith in God’s graciousness, to bring light to the eyes of others through this same wondrous sight of God’s bounty and goodness?  Iff, instead of light, we choose to shut the eyes of some and bring heaviness and bitter tears to the eyes of others, and here we include not only the condemned but also their families and relatives and supporters, have we not failed terribly in serving our most gracious God and opened a path for ourselves that may lead to the eternal darkness?  

If you cast the net wide, indeed the guilty may be caught, but so also will many more of the innocent, by dint of human affection and sympathy, as is natural and God-given.  You will likely need to cast again, each time with an increasingly bigger net, and so finally end in being ensnared yourself, by dint of widespread anger, if not righteous.  Please, then, I plead with you to have mercy on these 529 people.  If, in your judgment, you deem it necessary to severely punish the perpetrators of the murder committed, please at least hold those responsible who are most responsible, in accordance with a measure of both mercy and fairness, including through an impartial judicial process for each of the accused supported by a careful review of all the testimony and evidence and an even-handed application of the law.

Dear Lord, please have mercy on us despite our  sins.  Let us ever emulate you in your merciful compassion and seek after your will for justice with due humility as your servants. Please do not let us be tempted by the false allure of retribution and threat, which at first may seem to make for peace, but which quickly turns, like an angry viper, upon the one who releases it.  May this plea and prayer bring blessing to all involved being of good will.

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On anger

Some speak of “honest” anger. But, most frequently, it is in the nature of anger to be dishonest.  

For example, anger oftentimes targets the wrong person, or erupts at the wrong time, in response to what is innocent, or delivers a blow out of all proportion to the original offense. Itt sees, as it were, every fault, even those that aren’t there, and magnifies the faults that are. Its natural inclination is to be curt and harsh, to rejoice in the evidence of pain and punishment it inflicts, and to suspect everything and believe nothing. 

In this way, anger tends toward the opposite of love, which “covers all offenses,” which is “patient and kind,” which “rejoices in the right,” and “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,  endures all things.”  In love is knowledge of the beauty and goodness and sacredness of God’s creation and children, but anger will have none of this.

Anger is quick to seize on categories that ostracize and demonize and divide, that is, to pin labels on others which, because they are absolute and overgeneralize, lump together and conceal the good with the bad and the bad with the good. Such derogatory labels can truly be a serious affront to God, who made man “in the image of God,” as they can encourage some to unjustly steal from other people their individual human dignity, which lie in the particular gifts of mind, heart, soul, and strength that God gave to each person, all of these in combination.   As to absolute standards, God’s grace is great and supple enough to reach the least perfect and most marginalized, and so we are encouraged to “love your neighbor as yourself” and reminded that “the measure you give will be the measure you get.”  The poorest love is always more holy and righteous than even the most perfect hate.

Anger may continue in dishonesty even after it is spent (here we pass over the colder, more destructive, more murderous emotion known as “implacable” anger).  It may deny, to itself, that itt has done anything wrong, or that it has caused any lasting wound or damage for, after all, it was but “honest” anger and, indeed, may forestall self-remonstrance by blocking out from conscious memory its own past deeds. So it devalues the anguish of others and, in self-absorbed and unfeeling manner, distances itself from others real wound and pain.  It fails to see how its “strength” is like a strong wind blowing on burning embers of woundedness that can spark an unholy fire of shame and depression or deep resentment and strife.

So it is that “honest” anger can be deceptive, even to itself, as to what it encourages us to do and in the way it nourishes itself.  At the same time, the actual feeling or prresence of anger is what it is, and it may, indeed, be dishonest not to admit to ourselves that we are feeling anger.  The acknowledgment of a symptom may herald the start of treatment and healing.  Also, despite the numerous pitfalls, there remains the possibility, however infrequent, that anger may be appropriate in target and kind and degree, and of benefit in redressing a grave wrong.  This is more likely when anger is directed toward an injurious principle or system or cause than toward a particular brother or sister.  Even so, from the moment of its seeming inception, anger often is, at root, a very different emotion that is merely masquerading as anger, an emotion that is just too painful for us to deal with directly, such as guilt and shame, fear and frustration, or a deep sense of weakness and powerlessness. 

We do well, then, not to befriend or join ourselves with anger.  For such a friend or ally can be very deceptive, appearances notwithstanding, and tempt us to do foolish or unjust or ugly things, which later may bring us deep regret or shame or even the endless tears of an inconsolable grief.

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Heralded by star and angel

In the East a star shone bright
And led the wise men through the night
Quietly over desert sands
Westward to a holy land

The wise men stopped at palace of king
Who laid a table of fine dining
Who asked the wise men what they’d heard
A king is born? Do send backk word!

On went the wise men in the night
Following the star so bright
Westward to a holy place
Of joy and light and loving grace

Finally the star did come to rest
Over a stable by God much blessed
Close by the animals, a family prayed
Mother Mary, father Joseph, and an infant babe

On their knees, the wise men fell
And worshipped the babe they called Emmanuel
Gold and frankincense and myrrh they laid
Before the infant and God they praised

Elsewhere in the fields where shepherds kept watch
And waited forr day to waken their flocks
An angel appeared and, with light all around,
Announced a Savior to wear David’s crown

This Savior, said the angel, is Christ the Lord
Who will establish righteousness throughout the world
Newly born to a virgin, a blessed babe
Has come as your Savior, give God great praise

Then other angels suddenly filled the heavens
Praising God and proclaiming peace among men
And then the angels were gone, but the shepherds soon went
To go see this babe foretold in Bethlehem

Now departing, the wise men avoided the palace
For they were warned in a dream of that king’s dark malice
And to Joseph an angel again in dream appeared
And said take flight to Egypt for the king’s wrath turns here

But though the family was anxious as they hurried to departt
Still Mary carried great hope in her heart
From the visits of the wise men and the shepherds too
In which star and angel heralded God’s grace and truth

Dear Lord, in this birth may we find your holy peace
When our Savior comes again, all bloody strife will cease
As if sun were dark, the star will shine and bright heaven be unveiled
And hosts of angels will sing your praise throughout heaven and the world

Water will spill forth in desolate lands and blessed garden will take root
And your children will again rejoice as tender grace kisses stalwart truth
As it was for Mary, dear Lord, let it also be for us
Let great hope also fill our hearts, on this holy day of Christmas

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For the anguished near the time of visitation

When we grieve, when we grieve deeply, often this is from great loss. One of these deep losses is a loss of self. That is, a time when we come face-to-face with a loss of a part of ourselves. A common example is an older man who grieves the loss of his strength or an older woman her appearance.  But there are other losses of mind and heart and soul that run even deeper, for we may lose our sense of mastery or enthusiasm or lovability.  We may come face-to-face with a sense of helplessness and dependency and worthlessness and the bitter realization that we cannot be the same person we once were, especially for those whom we dearly love.

So too, loss of those we deeply love is also a type of loss of self, for those we deeply love become part of ourselves, and when we lose them, we also lose that part. Thatt part, indeed, may be our better part, for what others cherish in us may be cherished by us out of love for these others.  So Jesus spoke of Mary taking the “good portion” when she chose to be in the presence of Jesus’ love rather than to serve guests with Martha.  That part of us that loves God is our better part and to the extent that part infuses the whole, so we more closely follow the “first” commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The “second,” which comes after, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This loss of what we had once cherished, this poverty of self, this mourning over our great loss that we do not think will ever be restored, can find its healing in God’s wholeness and holiness and in God’s blessing.  

One of the remarkable facets of Jesus’ life is the way that his holiness and presence suddenly transformed hearts, how upon encountering Jesus, many people would suddenly be possessed with a deep sense of their own failings and worthlessness and how far short they fell from the absolute holiness of God’s grace and truth.  So Peter exclaimed to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  So Mary wept with sorrow for her own sinfulness upon Jesus’ feet and from utter abandonment to love dried Jesus’ feet with her hair.  So when Jesus healed lepers, or gave sight to the blind, or drove out demons, or lifted up the crippled, Jesus “forgave” these blessed individuals.  This he would not have done if the only wound in these people lay in their body or mind only, for then, some other statement would have sufficed, such as “Give glory to God for your healing.”  But Jesus’ act of forgiving is directed to healing another part, which is the great sense of failing and weakness and sin that came to some, the blessed ones, in Jesus’ presence.  

For indeed there were some whose eyes were closed and whose hearts were hardened who were confused by or scorned Jesus, just as today those “holier than thou” are scorned.  Theyy were not ready for their sins to be taken away, as by Isaiah’s burning coal, for they knew not the time of their “visitation,” and “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  For these others, the close allies of Satan, which are doubt joined with pride and fear joined with anger, submerged their thinking so as to fill their “world,” and from this inner ground grew the rank weeds of suspicion and harshness and ultimately violence.  But this temptation of Satan may be resisted, for as Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   

For us, part of this overcoming comes from realizing that God is always with us, that even though we may lose a part of ourselves we may have cherished much, we should not despair.  For the great “good news” is that we will not lose the “good” portion, which is God’s love for us, and in that love there is always room for light and life and joy and consoling fruit that, in God’s good time, will gradually ripen and spill forth in abundance for the cherished and beloved of God.   As great the initial sense of worthlessness and shame, greater still is the following sense of loving forgiveness, joy, and peace.

So when is the time of visitation?  It is like the time when Abraham, extending hospitality to three men and feeding them with three cakes made of three measures of Sarah’s fine meal, realized they were angels and the Lord.  It is like the time Isaiah proclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips,” whereupon an angel touched a burning coal to his lips to take his guilt away.  Itt is like a merchant who, finding a pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.  It is like standing in soiled and torn clothes next to those of whitest wedding garment spun of a seamless weave.  It is the moment when we finally see and hear and say, “O my God, there really is a God and here God is!

For those who grieve, then, over their inner wounds and anguish over a broken part of themselves they fear will never be restored, know that you have not lost the best part of yourself, nor will you ever lose the best part, which is that portion that longs for and is set afire by the divine spark of bright blaze that heals and gives life and restores abundantly.  You do not even “tend toward average,” which is only an idol and snare of the present age, for you are made by a loving Creator “in the image of God” and the kingdom of heaven stands ever above, and will prevail, over the world’s hazard and disquiet and turmoil.   

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Seasons

At the end of the summer, we harvest the good grain
But it is you, O Lord, who from above provide the rain
And come the falll, the maple sap runs free
But you, O Lord, in scarlet and amber cloak the trees

Then comes the winter when the white snow drapes the ground
And like your love, brushes our cheek and brings stillness all around
The days then darken, Lord, but each season at last departs
You do not forgett us Lord, but lengthen the days and cheer our hearts

And as the light grows, so life rises anew
Green buds awaken and pert sparrows sing melodies for you
Red and white, tan and green
Each season weaves its color scheme

Once, O Lord, I lived near the sea’s tumultuous roar
But wherever I’ve been, the changing seasons were always just outside the door
Dear Lord, your care for us is like a flame burning ever bright
So gentle yett wondrous your presence, like the colored lights of starry night

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Trust and Faith

When we think of “trusting” in God, we often think of God pulling us through a difficult or perilous situation.  But there is another way of trusting in God.

When uncertainty and hazard enter our lives, our situation can resemble that of an unfortunate passenger caught aboard a sinking vessel who is forced to board a small boat in the open sea.  As we embark, we may have serious doubt as to whether we have enough provisions aboard to keep ourselves alive during the long and uncertain journey lying ahead.  It is then we hear a cry for help, and, turning toward the desperate sound, we see one of the other passengers floundering in the roiling waves.  We know them only by appearance but do not know even their name.   Their eyes lock with ours, and they cry “help me, please help me.” 

Do we, then, take them aboard, when we doubt whether there is enough even for ourselves?  Won’t two people starve just that much quicker where one may remain more certainly alive?  And what if we are aboard with family or close kin so that we are responsible for their lives too?   These are indeed perplexxing questions, and may God give us strength and guide us as we make this hard decision.

It is in such situations that a second way of “trusting” in God can occur.  This is the trust that when we act with mercy, according to God’s compassionate will, God will provide what is needed so that, somehow, all will turn out well in the end.  If we trust God in our own time of need, this God who feeds the birds of the air though “they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns,” then we may also trust God to return back the good measure we give to others, indeed, with extra measure added or wondrously multiplied, as if “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” 

In this world, to be sure, it appears “one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice,” which we may takke as a sign of God’s “kindness and forbearance and patience,” who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”   To be sure, the wicked do seem to especially prosper and not be “in trouble as other men.”  At the same time, those who trust in oppression and crookedness, oft are set “in slippery places” and fall to ruin “in a moment” or are like a “high wall, bulging out” that “in an instant” collapses.  

However it may go on earth, it is our “faith” that good works and loving sacrifice performed on behalf of others, where unrequited, will find their reward in heaven “where neither moth nor rust consumes.”  All who believe in judgment, that on the last day the glorious one sitting on his glorious throne will separate the sheep from the goats, can likewise keep faith in this promise of great hope and good tidings. 

Yet, even in this world, those who conquer their “faint spirit,” who overcome overwhelming fear and anxiety, who trustt in God to provide whatever may be needed so that God’s holy work of mercy may be completed, will at least have the light load of a clear conscience.  They will know, at least, that they did all they could to do the right thing, and so, being of untroubled mind and light heart, find rest for their souls.  Is not this the way that we fill our lamps with the “oil of gladness,” instead of the ashes of grief, so that our lamp may “so shine before men, that they may see [these] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.”  Is not this the way to prepare our lamps, as did the five wise maidens to be ready for the bridegroom, though he came in time of darkness while others slept, so that we are ready to go with the divine master to the heavenly feast and celebration?    Dear Lord, when the moment of decision is upon us, please help to steady our thoughts and guide our hand.  May we, with the help of your loving grace and divine strength, ever find a way that brings blessing to all who cry out for your merciful deliverance, including the way that takes us ever closer to your door.

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