10 Things I Don’t Have to Worry About Today

WorryA strange thing happened today. I really wanted to put up a real post this week and had a few ideas stashed. When the time came to write, I could not bring myself to invest time or energy into them. I tried looking over Twitter and some other blog sites for ideas. I saved interesting ones to look at later because I did not really feel like reading them. Today I went on a walk during a break at my day job and pulled out my phone to read those articles and I could not do it. Not because of a failing in my technology, I literally didn’t feel like pushing the button and diving in. I thought about checking Facebook and still just felt bleh about even doing that. I slipped the phone back in my pocket and just kept walking.

With all the junk going on recently in the world, I have read my fair share of posts/blogs/status updates that range from compassionate and respectful to angry and all the way to hateful. I confessed to my wife recently that I think I have reached the limit of my emotional bandwidth. I am typically able to shake things off and not get too emotionally involved but the volume on everything and every pundit and post seems to be turned up to 11 lately. Also, we have decided to clean out the attic and other “storage” areas of our house. We are looking for things that we have not really touched in a while and deciding if we really need it or not. This is also bringing up a range of emotions as we come across items that bring up old memories both pleasant and sad.

So, as I was on my walk I began to think about things I do not really have to worry about because of who I am and where I live. I started to think about this in light of the constantly running news stories and the seeming endless amount negativity flowing from our screens and speakers. Here is a list of 10 things I could think of.

  1. I do not have to worry about being judged or threatened because of my religious beliefs.
  2. I do not have to worry about being judged or threatened because of the clothing I wear (religious or otherwise).
  3. I do not have to worry about whether I can find healthy food at prices I can afford or being judged by how I buy my food.
  4. I do not have to worry about my body not meeting the popular standards and images of beauty.
  5. I do not have to worry about my house or family being threatened by rockets, drones, missiles or artillery fire.
  6. I do not have to worry about tear gas seeping into my house through the air conditioner vent or an open window.
  7. I do not have to worry about the security of my job or the ability to find another if needed.
  8. I do not have to worry my sexuality being questioned, judged or portrayed negatively.
  9. I do not have to worry about where I can sleep safely tonight.
  10. I do not have to worry about people being suspicious when I walk down the street with a few of my friends.

These are not meant to prove how lucky or privileged I am, but really to shine a light on where these are troublesome issues for people. I do not have to worry about these things, but (as the news stories show) many people around the world or even around the corner do. People who have to worry about these things generally have to do so out of no fault of their own. They have generally not done anything to call for the worry or judgment they just happen to be in a place where these concerns are real. Many residents in Ferguson are not clashing with police, yet their neighborhoods are being torn apart. Many people in Gaza have no love for Hamas, but Israeli artillery and missiles fall constantly. Many Israelis love the people of Gaza and want peace, yet rockets still threaten indiscriminately. People in our neighborhoods who live outside can live in constant fear for their life or the security of their few belongings.

The challenge of not having to worry about such things is that I have the freedom to reach out to those who do. It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity and feel powerless to address the issue. Or we may be tempted by the lack of concern to not feel like it’s something we should think about or help with. It can easily become a “not my problem” or “not in my backyard” issue that we do not want to engage with. So, while I am temporarily overwhelmed by my concerns and the concerns of the world, I can be freed to engage because of the things I do not have to worry about. I am free to not focus on what I lack and instead see what I have and am able to open up and share with others.

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

Prayer for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

L’Angélus by Jean-Francois Millet, 1859.

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer, Revised Common Lectionary.

Prayers posted during Ordinary Time will feature art that is often not specifically religious, but art for arts sake. Enjoy!

Saint of the Week – Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe

I stumbled across this week’s saint when perusing my Twitter feed yesterday. After reading a bit about his life, ministry and death With all the news of violence and discrimination both abroad and around the corner, I thought this week’s saint was a good life to remember. This week’s saint remained faithful to the Church and to others even when it led to his death.

This week’s saint is Maximilian Kolbe, he is remembered in the Catholic church on August 13th.

Maximilian was born on January 8, 1894 in Poland. In his childhood, Maximilian supposedly saw a vision of Mary which deeply affected him for the rest of his life. He recounts the vision like this:

“That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”
Saints on Earth: A Biographical Companion to Common Worship, By John H. Darch, Stuart K. Burns, Published by Church House Publishing, 2004.

In 1907 Maximilian joined the Franciscan order with his brother. When he took his final vows in 1914 in Rome he also took the name Mary (or Maria) because of his vision and devotion to her. Maximilian had spent time studying philosophy, theology, mathematics and physics and would ultimately earn a doctorate of philosophy in 1915 and later a doctorate of theology in 1919. Maximilian returned to Poland where he started a monastery, found an order devoted to Mary, taught in a seminary, supervised a radio station and helped print magazines and newspapers that had a circulation of over one million. Maximilian would also travel to Asia from 1930-36 where he would found other monasteries in Nagasaki and in India.

When World War II broke out at the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Maximilian sent most of the monks home from the monastery in Poland knowing it would eventually be seized. Maximilian was imprisoned with some of his fellow monks but they were released three months later. However, in 1941 them monastery was closed and Maximilian was imprisoned and transferred to Auschwitz. While he was a prisoner, he continued much of his priestly duties in secret. He heard confessions and even celebrated the Eucharist with bread and wine that was smuggled into the camp.

One day a prisoner escaped from the camp. In order to discourage others from escaping, the commanders of the camp ordered that for every man who escaped, 10 others would die. When they began randomly choosing the 10 men one of the screamed out saying, “My wife, my children!” Upon hearing this, Maximilian stepped forward to take the man’s place. Maximilian was thrown into a cell with the other prisoners chosen to die. They were left there to die by starvation and dehydration. While in the cell, Maximilian worked to keep spirits high by singing, praying and reciting Psalms. Two weeks later, four prisoners remained alive including Maximilian. The guards wanted the cell emptied and proceeded to give Maximilian and the other three prisoners a lethal injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941. Maximilian’s remains were cremated the next day.

Maximilian was canonized on October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II. The man Maximilian stepped up for, Franciszek Gajowniczek, attended the ceremony.

“Brethren, let us love him above all, our most loving heavenly Father, and let our obedience be a sign of this perfect love, especially when we have to sacrifice our own wills in the process. And as for a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.”
Maximillian Kolbe, A Letter of St. Maximilian Kolbe

 

More Information & References:
Wikipedia – Maximilian Kolbe
Parish of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (New Jersey) – About Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Mission St. Clare – Maximilian Kolbe
Catholic Online – St. Maximilian Kolbe

A Prayer

Iraqi Yazidis, who fled their homes a week ago when Islamic State (IS) militants attacked the town of Sinjar, gather at a makeshift shelter on August 10, 2014 in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP.

Iraqi Yazidis, who fled their homes a week ago when Islamic State (IS) militants attacked the town of Sinjar, gather at a makeshift shelter on August 10, 2014 in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. Photo by Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP.

As I started to think about what to write for this week’s blog, I had a hard time coming up with anything that seemed worthwhile to share while people are suffering. There is so much going on in the world and the news can be overwhelming. During church on Sunday our pastor stopped the service and had everyone pray with others around them for fellow Christians in the Middle East who are coming up against violent and deadly persecution. I came to the conclusion that with everything going on the best thing I could do was, like on Sunday, pray. So, rather than bog you down with a long winded blog post, here’s a prayer.

God Almighty, father of mercy, justice and grace. I pray that as in the beginning, you would shine your light into the incredibly dark places of your world.

Places where children are being killed.

Where families are surrounded and starving.

Places where your sons and daughters have lost hope.

Where your Church is being battered, bruised and crucified like your Son.

Shine the light of life on those who would take it from others.

Shine the light of life on those who seek to end their own.

Comfort the meek and the mourners.

Welcome the martyrs and the murdered.

I want to pray, “even so, come quickly Lord” so that the pain, mourning, crying and tears would all be stripped away.

I need to pray “Wake up, O Sleeper” because I fear, like Jonah, I just want to run away and sleep. I believe you are a God of mercy, justice and grace, but it is hard to feel that sometimes.

Give us the strength to stand on the boat of this world, tossed to and fro by the waves of sin and injustice.

Give us ears to hear the cries of our fellow sailors and stowaways.

Give us the courage to help those who are weak.

Give us the voice to shout at the waters, “Quiet, be still.”

And give us the faith to keep sailing, keep working…even if the tempest does not pass.

In all these things Lord, we pray your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. To the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Prayer for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Ordinary Time)

Object Book by Ion Bitzan, 1979.

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer, Revised Common Lectionary.

Prayers posted during Ordinary Time will feature art that is often not specifically religious, but art for arts sake. Enjoy!

Saint of the Week – Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa

Toyohiko Kagawa

I’, really trying to get back on the blogging wagon here and return to your regularly scheduled saint of the week. I had heard the story of today’s saint a little while ago and had planned to share it with you all since then. During this time when there is great division and struggle in many places around the world, I thought it would be nice to share the story of someone who worked to unite humanity amidst some of the world’s greatest struggles.

This week’s saint is Toyohiko Kagawa.

Toyohiko was born on July 10, 1888 to a very wealthy Japanese business man and his concubine. Toyohiko’s parent’s died when he was about four years old. He was sent away to school and ended up being taught by Presbyterian missionaries. These two missionaries, Harry Myers and Charles Logan, brought Toyohiko into their home, taught him English and about the Christian faith. Under their guidance, Toyohiko became a Christian while he was a teenager. This led to further separation from the family he had remaining as they essentially disowned Toyohiko for choosing to become a Christian. Toyohiko then chose to study theology at Tokyo Presbyterian College, and also Kobe Theological Seminary. He would also attend Princeton Theological Seminary and studied embryology, genetics, comparative anatomy, and paleontology along with theology.

During his studies Toyohiko always sought to serve others. He firmly believed that true Christian faith was demonstrated through actions and would often point to the parable of the Good Samaritan as his example. While studying in Kobe he would move into the nearby Shinkawa slum where he worked as a missionary and social worker. In 1914 he moved the the United States to study ways that he could further combat poverty. Because of his studies he would become involved in many labor and peasants movements along with organizing religious programs back in Kobe. He started a group in 1909 called the Jesus Band out of a small room in Kobe to help with his work.

In 1921 Toyohiko would start another group called the Friends of Jesus which was similar to the Franciscian order in that they strove to witness to others through their discipline and compassion for the poor. Around the same time he would also be arrested for participating in labor movements and strikes in Japan. After his release a large earthquake would strike Japan and Toyokiko helped orgainze relief efforts in Tokyo. Before World War II broke out, Toyohiko continued his work with the poor and advocated for universal suffrage for both men and women in Japan and served in the National Anti-War League. Before the United States joined World War II, Toyohiko would travel to the United States in 1940 to try and prevent war between the United States and Japan. While his was accused of being a communist by some, Toyohiko worked to find a better alternative to the capitalist, communist and facist options on display during his active life. He started many cooperative movements and tried to inspire the Church to work with co-ops and the peace movements towards a better economic and societal alternative.

Over the course of his life, Toyohiko would write over 150 books and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature twice (1947, 1948) along with being awarded the Nobel Peace Price twice (1954, 1955). Whatever money he made from his books and prizes was always given to his projects to help the poor and oppressed while he and his family lived off a small salary. His most popular books were Crossing the Deathline and Shooting at the Sun. Toyohiko’s health would slowly decline but he continued to organize projects and preach even when he was bedridden. On April 23 Toyohiko slipped into unconsciousness for nearly three hours before awakening, smiling at his wife and speaking his last words, “Please do your best for world peace and the church in Japan.”

While he studied theology and knew the technical ins and outs of the Christian faith, Toyohiko always believed that a Christian should be known for his actions among others rather than what they believed.  Toyohiko once said,

“There are theologians, preachers and religious leaders, not a few, who think that the essential thing about Christianity is to clothe Christ with forms and formulas. They look with disdain upon those who actually follow Christ and toil and moil, motivated by brotherly love and passion to serve…They conceive pulpit religion to be much more refined than movements for the actual realizations of brotherly love among men…The religion Jesus taught was diametrically the opposite of this. He set up no definitions about God, but taught the actual practical practice of love.”

I pray that we, like Toyohiko Kagawa, could move beyond the belief of Christianity to step out in action. I pray that the Church would be inspired by his example to work for peace and serve the poor even when it is not popular. I pray that we could see beyond the political, economic and cultural options of the day in order to see the truth of God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

More Information & References:
Wikipedia – Toyohiko Kagawa
Christianity.com – Toyohiko Kagawa
Boston University – Kagawa, Toyohiko (1888-1960)

 

The Issue With Trying to Understand a Conflict Older than Any of Us in 5 Minutes

I understand that what I’m about to talk about reaches across the political, religious and moral spectrum for many people. Know that I love each and every one of you who take the time to read my blog posts and that I am stepping into these waters with a healthy dose of humility. I ask for you to do so as well. Also, this post is going to be a bit long and we’re going to start out pretty heavy on the history before ending with a little light smattering of theology. So, if history is not your bag…you may want to buckle your seatbelts or just skip to the end.

With that said, I’m going to talk about the fighting that is currently going on between Israel and Palestine. Continue reading