Last Days…Children of the Living God

It really feels like we have approached the last days… I’m preaching tomorrow about how to pray during these times.  How can we pray through grief, sorrow, and doubts?  I found in Hosea 1:10 an answer to crisis we are facing here and now.  Hosea was told to marry a harlot to show Israel that they have acted as harlots.  This is because Israel turned away from God.  Israel was committing a spiritual harlotry by forsaking the Lord.  First the kingdom of the House of Israel, the northern kingdom will fall.  the House of Judah, the southern kingdom would at first be saved.  But it too would fall.  It would come to the point where God would say, “you are not my people and I am not your God.”  But God’s love persists through the people of Israel turning away from God.  In Hosea 1:10 it is written: “in the place where it was said to them ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).

What makes one a child of God?  People of Israel were chosen by God.  They had a covenantal relationship with God.  There was Abrahamic (Genesis 15) and Mosaic (Exodus 3) covenant.  And the covenant renewed in and through Jesus.  Because of the covenant, God will hear people of Israel and God will hear us when we cry out in prayer.  Prayer is how we communicate with the living God.  In Luke, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.  We can certainly pray the Lord’s prayer each and every day in every moment, especially when we don’t know how to pray.  But especially when we can’t pray or wonder why we should bother with prayer, it is time to pray.  Times like these, we wonder where is God?  Why are the innocent dying?  Why is there suffering that seems unnecessary?  Such questions could lead to sorrow, despair and doubts.

Doubt is “kosher” for faith.  What I mean is that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith.  In the NT, a father comes to Jesus and asks that Jesus, if he is able, to heal his son.  Jesus says “If you are able!–All things can be done for the one who believes” (Mark 9:23).  Then immediately the father of the sick child cried out “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  As this father prayed, prayer is possible in belief and unbelief.  This man said, I believe, help my unbelief.  He believed and had doubts or at the same time also didn’t believe.  Sounds strange.  But in reality, we believe and we don’t believe, have doubts, questions, and yet our faith will endure through prayer.

To this end, I suggest praying through psalms at times there are no words of your own to pray with.  Use words of Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).  Pray using the words of Psalm 85: “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.  You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.  You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away our indignation toward us” (Psalm 85:1-4).

If you want to hold on to your faith when you feel you couldn’t possibly believe any more, pray.  When you start to doubt, pray.  Pray not to hide from the world and to remain inactive in the face of injustice.  Pray that God would give us courage, hope and faith.  It may be for some that praying is not desirable, feeling too distant from a state where one could pray.  You can’t force prayer, you can’t force faith, and why would you want to.  But if you want to try to hold on to your faith in these days when it seems we have or are nearing the end of times, then try praying to God, because if there is a God, and if that God is a living God, God hears prayers and if nothing else is changed in the world, something in  us will change.  That something in us that changes can bring about change in the world.

Few weeks ago, I was blessed with this Franciscan benediction after a prayer meeting for racial reconciliation.  I leave you with this Franciscan benediction.

 

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.

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you have become my salvation

“I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21)

I thank you, God, for today.  I have the day off from work.  And I am able to relax, drink coffee, read the Bible and to pray.  I am so thankful this morning for my life.  Lately, I have been feeling sad and unmotivated on weekends, which at times cause me to think life is but a misery.  God, give me strength and hope that I can live through such moments/days of sadness and hopelessness.  Let me live in reality that you are my salvation!

unexpected beautiful moment

yesterday, I visited a patient fourth day on a row. first time I met the patient was on Sunday by on-call page. I didn’t realize he was in critical condition. only the next day when I visited him had he visibly deteriorated. on my last visit, he was sleeping, morphine induced sleep I think. I talked to him, reminding him how he joked with me first time I visited him, sang to him amazing grace. last going I said up him was that he was in good hands. I found out this morning that he passed few minutes after I left him. he and I shared a beautiful moment minutes before his death. I imagine he’s in a better place much like the feeling I get from this picture of a garden in the middle of downtown.

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paraclete

I am so encouraged, beseeched, and exhorted by Tim Keller’s sermon from yesterday, March 24th, 2013.  He preached about the need to “encourage” each other in christian community.  Paraclao (I think) is too strong a word for encourage, and yet too gentle for another word which I can’t remember.  We are to model ourselves after Jesus who is the first paraclete and Holy Spirit who is the second paraclete.  Only as we are advocated by the Holy Spirit of what Jesus has done for us that we can advocate on behalf of others: to encourage, comfort, beseech, advocate.  After I heard this sermon, I was inspired to write texts to many of my friends that I interact with daily or weekly.  Sent text to my boyfriend, my community group co-leader/friend, and others who encourage me.  I am so thankful, so thankful to be in daily interaction with one or more of such paracletes in my life, paraclete embodied in flesh and blood.  You have to speak in love and truth.  You can’t be all accepting of everything someone does.  Nor can you be too quick to critique someone.  Ever so gently, and ever so patiently, and humbly we are to encourage (paraclao) each other.  Have you acted as an advocate for someone you love today?

those closest to our heart

It’s the hardest thing in the world to share with someone closest to my heart about my religious beliefs, which in fact profoundly define and shape who I am.  Why should this be so?  Don’t I trust this person who is closest to my heart that he will be understanding, patient, and loving all the same as I share my core beliefs?  Ideally the answer would be yes.  Since it isn’t yes, but a maybe, or I would hope so, I stop to reflect on the relationship between myself and the closest person to my heart.  I feel and believe that I am unconditionally accepted by this person.  But perhaps that is only head knowledge and not heart knowledge.  Yes, I am scared to be vulnerable to the one person I can be vulnerable with and not fear rejection or judgment.  This is likely to be more about me than the relationship.  It takes courage to open up my inner most being to another person, even to the person I trust most.  How do I acquire such a thing?

Merry Christmas…the year all my wishes came true

Merry Christmas, everyone! This was a great Christmas. One friend proposed to a girlfriend of eleven years and she said yes! Another friend gave birth to a beautiful girl! My boyfriend and I are together, again. 🙂 We got to spend Christmas together. And I have a great roommate. I get to see my nieces and my two sisters in two days. I finished four units of CPE which means my badges in hospitals will now say chaplain instead of chaplain intern. I got great feedback on my final paper and terrific grade in the class I was taking. At this point in my life, for everything I could ask for, I got. So happy and feeling great! Thank you, God! Thank you, Jesus!

death and life

What does it mean that we all will die at some point? I am a chaplain in training. Yesterday two of my patients died in ICU. And before that three patients died during the week. Patient that died in ICU, Edna (pseudonym) was a lovely person. So was her husband, Ed. I visited them twice before she got transferred to the ICU. She and Ed talked about Alaska as if it were the place to be! Imagine, Alaska, the state that elected Sarah Palin as governor! Mr and Mrs E encouraged me to apply for a job there. Oh they need people for everything! You need to be roughed though. Are you outdoorsy? Oh every guide we had carried a rifle. !!! it was on their trip to Alaska that Mrs E fell asleep on tours and Mr E knew something was wrong he said. It wasn’t like Edna to be sleeping on tours! Trip to Alaska had saved her life they said. Mrs E, how do you stay so positive? Oh, I give myself pep talks. You’ll have to teach me how you do that! Oh, I just talk to God. oh, that’s right up my ally! maybe next time we could pray together. …

but there was no next time. on my way up to the ICU to answer a page, I ran into Mr E. I was caught off guard. mr E answered the question I was thinking in my head. She’s not doing so well. she’s on life support. you want to meet my daughters? they are both here. sorry I was paged for another patient. I’ll drop by afterwards. my heart sank. on my way to ICU I was already sad, heart broken. when I dropped by mr E said to come back later. they are waiting for a priest. could I check on that? absolutely! I thought I’d get another chance to visit with the patient and family.

later in the afternoon, the room was closed. I could tell room was empty. still I had to find out. a clerk told me the patient expired. noooo. I thought I could come pray together with mr and mrs E. after I left the hospital, I felt like a lost spirit. I walked but I was looking past the objects. I wasn’t really seeing or thinking anything except when a cab angrily honked at me. I thought, sure, run me over, everyone dies. I Texted my boyfriend. I am walking aimlessly. his response was a question mark. guess my text needed clarification. I’m trying to walk off grief I said.

it felt weird to be alive encountering death so closely. I didn’t feel dead. I didn’t quite feel alive either. I had asked a colleague during the day, the staff in ICU, what are that made of? how do they do it?

similarly, what kind of people are chaplains exactly? how do chaplains do it? Are they pain and suffering junkies? no. pain sucks. suffering sucks. but we endure pain and suffering sometimes even choosing it as a profession because we care. it is a hard life. I’m not sure I can take it. all I can say is I sure am happy I got a chance to meet mr and mrs E. she was a lovely soul. so is Mr E.