For My Own Good

I have been preoccupied lately with the extent to which USA culture has shifted towards belief that life is a “zero sum game” – when you gain, I must lose. Compassion and generosity then require “self-sacrifice” and we become fearful of losing too much. But Jesus taught that only by losing do we win. Losing is not sacrifice but gain. Compassion and social justice are not just to benefit others but are the highest good for ourselves.

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Freedom from Thought

I read about Ignatius’ three types of people exercise and, as I tried to think my way through it, I began to feel that my faith wasn’t “good enough.” I think because I misunderstood the exercise.

Then, believe it or not, Divine intervention came through Facebook. I saw a link on Facebook to an interview with Karen Armstrong and in that interview I read this, “thinking can only take you so far. Action, behavior, especially compassionate behavior, is more important than thinking. By constantly exercising compassion, the golden rule, you enter a different state of consciousness. This rather than thinking will get you to enlightenment.”

And there it is. There’s the freedom that God wants from me. Freedom from attachment to always thinking my way through life.

What Counts

If time is what counts, then we have little left
Most of life is behind us

If money is what counts, then we have enough
Mostly we can do what we want

If friends are what counts, then we have a few
Good and close and cherished

If family is what counts, then we have complications
Some good, some bad, some indifferent

If faith is what counts, then we have doubt
Trying to worship a God we are not sure exists

If achievement is what counts, then we have satisfaction
Good careers behind us

If security is what counts, then we have an abundance
Because we live as middle class white Americans

If class is what counts, then we have risen
Above our parents’ class

If service is what counts, then we have opportunities
Every day, in small ways and larger

If love is what counts, then we have everything

Psalm 96

Sing to God a new song
A song of blessedness, a song of salvation
A song of God’s glory, marvelous works, and greatness
Sing to the God who is above all gods, above all troubles
Proclaim God’s honor and majesty, glory and strength
God’s holy splendor
I offer myself before my God
I offer myself and I tremble
God is Sovereign
And so God’s world is firmly established
And shall never be moved
God’s world around me
God’s world inside me
God’s living Word around me
God’s living Word inside me
I live in God’s world and God lives in me
God is fair and equitable
God is holiness and mercy
And so I shall be judged
With fairness, with mercy
Let me rejoice with all of God’s creation
With seas and land
With field and trees
With thoughts and deeds
With feelings and senses
All sing for joy
Because God comes, God abides, God lives, God reigns
Judging all, judging me
With righteousness, with truth, with love. Amen

Psalm 91

Assurance of God’s Protection

Living in the shelter of the Most High
Abiding in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say to Her
“You are my refuge and my strength
My God in whom I trust”
For She will deliver me from the snare of my doubts
And from my deadly depression
She will cover my faults with Her righteousness
Under Her wings I will find refuge and hope
Her enduring faithfulness is my shield against hopelessness
I will not fear my night terrors
Nor my daily failings
Not my dark depression
Nor my blinding doubts
A thousand doubts may trouble me
Ten thousand failings may preoccupy me
But She will protect me
She will open my mind to hope, to love, to eternal life
Because I have made Her my refuge
The Most High my dwelling place
No evil will befall me, no doom will come near me
She commands Her angels to protect me, to guard me always
To bear me up when I am cast down
To keep me from tearing myself to bits
So I will trample all my doubts and darkness, depression and disasters
God has promised
Through steadfast love, She will deliver me
With enduring faithfulness, She will protect me
When I call to Her, when I cry out, She will answer
She is with me through all my troubles, big and small
She rescues me, saves me, redeems me
With eternal life, she will quiet all my anxious striving
And show me Her salvation. Amen.

Psalm 130 – once and again

Here I am again, God, crying to You,
Please listen, please help, please have mercy
I have failed again, of course
I smile outside while inside I am angry and disparaging
Disparaging: a new D in my firmament – my dark firmament of Ds
I know You forgive me quicker and more completely than I forgive myself
I know that is a fearfully, delightfully, wonderful thing
But does it help me? Will I be a better friend, mother, sister, daughter, lover
I wait for You, God, I wait and I hope
Right down to the bottom of my soul I wait, and I’ll go on waiting
Through my dark night, through my dark night
Hoping, trusting, believing that the morning of Your light will come
With Your steadfast love, with Your full redemption, with Your saving grace
You will redeem me from all my sins, my faults
I wait, I hope, I pray
I don’t suppose You could hurry it up a bit, could You? Amen.
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Psalm 130 – again

Despite my dark doubts and confusion
Once again, I come crying to You, God
Hoping You exist, hoping You will hear me
Hoping You will help me
Because if You don’t, who will, who can
I’m scared, I’m getting everything wrong again
I feel hopeless
Until I remember You, until I hope in You
Until I remember Your forgiveness
Your steadfast love, You unfailing faithfulness
And so I have to wait, wait with hope for You
But it’s so hard to just wait
Wait through this darkness
Wait through this doubt
Wait through this confusion
Wait for Your light to show me the way
The way, the truth, the life
Wait with hope, and belief in Your steadfast love
Your great power to help me, to save me
Because I am Israel and You are my God and Savior. Amen.

Psalm 92

A song for the Sabbath

I will give thanks and sing praise to my Sovereign God, the Most High
I will remember and declare God’s steadfast love in my youth
God’s enduring faithfulness in my old age
With music and song, with prayer and reverence, I will give praise
My joy and my gladness are all God’s work, God’s great work in my life
Too great for my limited understanding
Though I struggle, though I doubt, Though I fail again and again
God will prevail
I am saved, forever
Despite my struggles, despite my doubt, despite my failings
God succeeds, forever
And so I am saved and favored, a child of God
Destined for good, not evil
Destined for love, not hate
Destined for peace, not conflict
Destined for hope, not despair
Destined to flourish as God’s good seed grows in me
And bears good fruit, even as I age
Maybe especially as I age
Because God is good, my gardener, my rock
My savior and my righteousness. Amen.