Wednesday’s Words: Barriers to Peace of Mind

iStock_000003550839XSmall[Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, “If only you knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it!” Luke 20:41-42

 

Are we longing for peace in our own lives but can’t see what is needed?

 

Pain and sorrow may come from sources outside ourselves, but what goes on within us contributes to our unrest. We bury old wounds, hoping they’ll never see the light of day. We think covering up old hurts will bring contentment. Instead they fester within us and impact our lives—sometimes without our even being aware it. We find ourselves repeating negative, self-destructive patterns again and again. We wonder why we always end up in relationships with emotionally unavailable people, working for a boss that’s hard to please, or always being the one people lean on and never having anyone to lean on ourselves.

 

There’s no need to wallow in self-pity but sometimes we need to let the hurts of the past see the light of day in order to deal with them and move on. How can we let go of the resentments, shame, or anxieties that plague us unless we first admit that they’re there?

 

As he wept over Jerusalem, Jesus said her enemies would close in on her from every side because she didn’t recognize the time when God came to save her. Are we being blocked in from living a fuller, richer life by enemies of denial, blaming others, self-righteousness, or a need to control? Is Jesus weeping over us?

 

Prayer: Lord, guide me to see what is needed for peace within my heart and in my relationships.

 

Reflection: How might your attitudes and behaviors be blocking serenity in your life?

Saturday Spotlight: The Man Born Blind

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallAs Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth…Jesus [said] “…As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he has said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” John 9: 1-12

 

After identifying himself s “the light of the world,” Jesus blocked the man’s vision even more. He made mud by spitting in the dirt and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. Sometimes it really is darkest before the dawn. One would think that healing would involve removing obstacles from the man’s vision, not adding more. Now, mud covered the man’s eyes, but the process didn’t end there. Jesus sent the man to wash away the mud…The man obeyed and was able to see. In dealing with the additional problem of mud on his eyes, the underlying cause of the man’s blindness was healed.

 

So often, things have to get worse before they get better. In our times of darkness, we may not be able to see how God can help. We blindly grope for solutions that don’t come. We want to see the answers before we let go of our control. We don’t understand that our own lack of vision can prevent us from finding the solutions we seek. Sometimes only a turn for the worse makes us willing.

 

We may need outside help but be reluctant to pursue it because we think things aren’t that bad…Then a crisis comes–a heart attack, a serious rift in our marriage, a drunk-driving arrest. We may be more willing to seek help once the situation worsens. We go to the doctor or the marriage counselor, or the support group. They can help, but only to the extent that we follow their instructions. We may need to take actions that will not only help us through the immediate crisis but also address the underlying causes…We can’t do it alone, but we can’t be passive recipients, either. Healing may well be a gift, but we must unwrap the gift and use it.

 

Prayer:  Jesus, Light of the World, sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn. Help me cooperate with the healing process as I place my trust in you.

 

Reflection:  Although Jesus healed the man by putting mud on his eyes, the man had to do his part by following instructions and washing. What in you needs healing? What is your part in cooperating with the healing you seek?

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc. Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with permission

Wednesday’s Word: Complaining

iStock_000003550839XSmallThe Lord said to Moses, “Put Aaron’s stick back in front of the Covenant Box. It is to be kept as a warning to the rebel Israelites that they will die unless their complaining stops.”  Numbers 17:10

 

Complaining can be hazardous to our health. Research indicates that chronic complaining causes physiological changes in the brain. It affects complainers and those listening to them. Chronic complaining leads to stress, which can result in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, sleep problems, and depression.

 

Everyone needs to vent at times. We don’t need to pretend things are fine when they aren’t. Keeping complaints locked inside where they can fester isn’t healthy. Naming a problem, sharing it to get it off our chest, and then deciding what, if anything, we will do in response is healthy. On the other hand, habitual complaining damages our well-being.

 

The Israelite slaves, once freed from Egyptian oppression, were chronic complainers. Granted, they had more to complain about that we do.

  • They complained when the Egyptian army was closing in on them. God parted the Red Sea, saved the Israelites and destroyed their enemies.
  • They complained about the water being bitter to drink. God made the water fit to drink and led them to a lush camping site.
  • They complained about not having bread or meat to eat. God sent quails and manna, bread from heaven. Surely that would cause them to trust God, right? Nope.
  • They complained about water again. God had water come from a rock for them. Now did they trust God? No.
  • While Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the people complained, wanted another God and tried to make one for themselves out of gold.
  • When they were brought to the Promised Land, they complained because some of their scouts reported that the inhabitants were giants.

The Israelites didn’t enter the Promised Land for 40 years because of their own reluctance and failure to trust God’s providential power despite numerous demonstrations. I used to wonder why they didn’t “get it” until I started looking at my own reluctance to trust God when faced with problems.

 

Dwelling on the negative certainly is detrimental to the quality of life over the long haul. It can stem from fear, a sense of entitlement, or lack of faith. If it becomes a habit, it can have a negative impact on our health.

 

What can we do about it? Habits are learned and can be unlearned. We can pro-actively practice gratitude. It’s amazing how writing down a list of things to be grateful for can turn around a negative mindset. We can invest in spiritual growth through prayer and meditation. We can read uplifting books or listen to uplifting music. We can spend time with people who have a positive outlook. Praising God for His power, love, mercy, and faithfulness can reinforce our trust that our needs will be met.

 

We can enhance our lives if we choose to let go of complaining.

 

Prayer: Lord, increase my trust in You.

 

Reflection: Count your blessings. List every single thing you can think of to be grateful for in black and white, no matter how small. You might start with things that are easy to take for granted until you don’t have them: the ability to see, hear, walk, clean drinking water, shelter, central heating.

Saturday Spotlight: The Official’s Son

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallNow there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

     The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household.  John 4:46-53

 

The official’s clout did him no good in his current need. All this man’s status, influence, and money couldn’t save his son. In this situation, he saw that Jesus’ reputed power was considerably more than his own. Love kept the man from being too proud to ask for help…He came to Jesus with humility, an essential attitude when approaching God. That’s not because God needs or wants kow-towing; it’s just and accurate perception of reality. Our loving God is also the all-powerful and supreme Creator.

 

The man wanted Jesus to travel from Cana to Capernaum to heal the boy in person. It seems like a reasonable expectation, but when we expect God to do things the way we think God should, we may be in for surprises.

 

For whatever reason, Jesus had this father return home on his own, after reassuring him that the boy would live…Heading home alone was a practical demonstration of obedient trust in Jesus. That trust was not misplaced.

 

Just because a situation doesn’t go the way we think it should, doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be good…Our expectations don’t limit God; they only limit our trust in God.

 

Prayer:  All-knowing God, help me trust that you know better than I do.

 

Reflection:  When have your expectations limited your ability to find joy?

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc. Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with permission

 

 

Ash Wednesday’s Word: Sacrifice

iStock_000003550839XSmallI want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:6

Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ Matthew 9:13

 

As we enter into this season of Lent, we’re called to practices of prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. In addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, many of us also give up something we enjoy-certain foods or pleasurable activities as a sacrifice during the 40 days of Lent.

 

Going without certain creature comforts can help us empty ourselves and make room for God to fill us up. But if it’s all about us and what we do or don’t do for Lent, where is the room to grow in love? If giving up dessert or TV only gives us the satisfaction of knowing that we completed our Lenten obligation, we might miss out on the spiritual value of sacrifice. Giving up caffeine or nicotine might even make us harder to get along with…not that we shouldn’t do this, but we need to be mindful of why we’re doing what we’re doing, so we don’t lose sight of how the sacrifice can help us grow in love.

 

That’s one reason why prayer and acts of charity are a valuable part of Lenten observance. Giving up 15 minutes of sleep by waking up a little earlier allows us to spend those minutes in prayer and meditation and draw closer to God’s plan for us. Giving up 15 minutes of reading the paper or keeping up with social media gives us time to really listen to the people under our own roof who might need attention. Giving up a half hour of TV might give us time to call someone who lives alone and let them know they aren’t forgotten.

 

Lent is not about sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. It’s about growing in love: for God, for other people, and for our own well-being.

 

Prayer: Lord, how do you want me to grow in love this Lent?

 

Reflection: What sacrifice can you make that will help you draw closer to God and to others?

Saturday Spotlight: Ten Lepers Healed

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallOn the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17: 11-19

 

Why did Jesus ask where the other nine were? They were doing what Jesus had told them to do. He told them to present themselves to the priests, and that’s what they did…The nine were obedient to Jesus’ instructions and to the Jewish law. In contrast, the Samaritan, on his way to performing the ritual, realized that God’s power had already healed him…Through direct contact with Jesus and his own response, he achieved what the Jewish ritual had been designed to do. He experienced healing and gave glory to God.

 

It may have been easier for a foreigner who grew up without the constraints of Jewish law to respond freely to the miracle. Some of us aren’t used to thinking “outside the box” of orthodox religious practices. We may overlook opportunities for true conversion of our hearts when they happen…Despite our devotion and reverence for God, we may find ourselves reciting prayers by rote, or repeating automatically the responses during church services. We can miss the power that the words and rituals convey. We cheat ourselves out of dynamic spiritual experience.

 

We can pray to be mindful, to notice when our prayers are answered. We need to be open to the unexpected ways God may answer those prayers. With increased awareness, we may find many more things to be grateful for.

 

Prayer:  Lord of all Creation, you are not limited by my assumptions. Open my mind and heart to notice your healing power, even when it comes in unexpected ways. Lead me to a deeper sense of well-being based on your presence, not my frailty.

 

Reflection:  What is the difference between religious observance and allowing the power of God to impact your life?

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Words: Showing off

iStock_000003550839XSmallWhen you stand before the king, don’t try to impress him and pretend to be important. Proverbs 25:6

 

Why do we try to impress people? Maybe we’re afraid that who we really are isn’t good enough.

 

Humility and self-esteem go together even though they seem like opposites. When we really feel good about ourselves, we can accept both our strengths and our weaknesses. We don’t have to try to be perfect because we trust that we’re okay even if we have faults or limitations. We can admit our imperfections because we aren’t devastated by them. We don’t have to build ourselves up by pretending to be something we’re not. Our self-worth isn’t based on getting people to think highly of us. We have the humility to be who we are.

 

When we have healthy self-esteem, we’re content to be one among many. We don’t have to be on top of the heap or relegate ourselves to the bottom. We have the humility to be who we are. Humility frees us to take the focus off ourselves. When we aren’t preoccupied with the impression we’re making or how we’re coming across to other people, we can focus on them and be considerate of their needs, wants, and interests.

 

Who would you rather be with—someone trying to convince you how good they are or someone who is taking a genuine interest in you? When we feel good about who we are we can afford to share the spotlight with others. When we do that, we make anyone we’re with feel like a king.

 

“People don’t want to be impressed; they want to be appreciated.” Unknown

 

Prayer: Lord, may my self-worth come from Your love

.

Reflection: What might help convince you that your best is good enough?

Saturday Spotlight: The Man with Dropsy

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallOn one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. Luke 14:1-6

 

Dropsy is “a disease in which watery fluid collects in the body,” according to the Oxford American Dictionary. In other words…the man’s legs and arms were swollen. Swelling can be incredibly painful.   Of course his cure meant a great deal to him personally, but the story is not so much about him as about those religious experts who were watching…It’s not that the man was not important or that his suffering didn’t matter, but it suggests that sometimes our own suffering isn’t solely about us. Our pain–and our recovery from it–can be about more than us. God can use our suffering to teach or to help others if we are willing to be used.

 

What does this man’s story have to do with us? What, within us, might be swollen? Maybe our egos are swollen…Self-centeredness doesn’t always take the form of overblown pride. We can be filled–or even obsessed–with thoughts of our own inadequacies and problems…Our minds might be swollen with worries, distractions, or self-righteous criticism. Jesus will help shrink our overdeveloped preoccupations down to a healthy size, if we let him.   Persistence in spite of his painful journey demonstrated [the man with dropsy’s] faith that Jesus could do for him what he could not do for himself. Our journey to show ourselves as we truly are might be equally as painful, but it can also be equally rewarding.

 

Prayer: Divine Healer, when my mind is swollen with pride or self-centered worry, restore my overdeveloped ego to its proper size.

 

Reflection:  What are the things within you that crowd out your ability to relate to the world around you?

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Detours

iStock_000003550839XSmallWhen the king of Egypt let the people go, God did not take them by the road that goes up the coast to Philistia, although it was the shortest way…Instead, he led them in a roundabout way through the desert toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13: 17-18

 

A straight line may be the shortest path, but who said it was the best path? Impatient creatures that we are, we may feel “the need for speed” but faster isn’t always better.

 

God had a reason for taking the Israelites out of their way as they traveled toward the Promised Land. If they had taken the direct route, they never would have made it. Their enemy was in fast pursuit and would have caught up with and captured them or killed them outright. Instead, the roundabout route led the Israelites to the Red Sea. With the Egyptian army closing in, the route looked like an out-of-the-way death trap. But God had a plan, a plan the Israelites could not have foreseen. The Red Sea parted. The Israelites passed through safely on foot. Their enemies, weighed down by heavy armor and chariots, got stuck in the mud and drowned.

 

Not a bad thing to remember when our plans to go full speed ahead get derailed. Sometimes we’re delayed from reaching our goals because we aren’t ready. We may need to grow a bit to be able to handle the challenges ahead. Sometimes something might need to be worked out in someone else. Events may need to fall into place. Trying to force issues and outcomes according to our timetables leads to frustration or worse. Spinning our wheels may give us something to do but it doesn’t get us where we’re trying to go.

 

I wanted to be a writer ever since I learned how to form letters on a page, but life kept taking other turns. After I retired from a 33 year career in social services, circumstances made it necessary for me to move to Pennsylvania–a move I was very reluctant to make. Only after moving back to New Jersey a year later did I begin to write seriously and start getting published. Why the 33 year delay? Because although I loved writing when I was young, I really didn’t have much worth saying. Thirty-three years of life’s ups and downs changed that. Why the year-long detour to Pennsylvania? Because it was in Pennsylvania—just two weeks before moving back to New Jersey—that a chance meeting with someone inspired me to actively pursue my writing. Had I not spent time in Pennsylvania, I might never have run into a person who inspired me to actively pursue writing. God knew all about my reluctance to move, but He also had a plan.

 

Sometimes the scenic route is the best route, not because it gets us to our destination faster, but because it makes the journey worthwhile.

 

Prayer:  Lord, may I follow where You lead.

 

Reflection:  When has a detour ended up helping you?

Saturday Spotlight: The Crippled Woman

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmall

Now [Jesus} was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. Luke 13:10-17

 

Can you imagine what life had been like for this woman prior to her healing? I wonder how bent over she was. My back aches just thinking about it. Physical pain aside, what was it like to spend eighteen years facing downward, rather than straight ahead? To never look up to see a sunny sky? To be unable to look people in the eye? No doubt her stooped posture singled her out in a crowd…Her literally downcast body language might have made it easy for people to dismiss her.

 

Jesus told the crowd that the woman had been bound by Satan and was now set free. Her stooped position was the result of bondage. What weighs us down? In the Book of Revelation, Satan is referred to as the “accuser” of believers (12:10). How easily we can be bent down under the burden of guilt over past mistakes. We all have regrets. We’re all sinners. God knows that better than we do. Jesus knew Peter would deny him long before Peter did. That didn’t stop Jesus from loving Peter or from choosing Peter to be the rock on which he built his church. The force that keeps us trapped in unrelenting remorse is not of God.

 

This crippled woman’s experience is a message of hope to us…As he called the woman, Jesus is calling us. He wants us to come to him so he can free us from our burdens, no matter how long we have been carrying them. Once free, we, too, will be better able to praise God and share the good news with others who are burdened by their pasts.

 

Reflection: Once touched by Jesus, the woman was able to straighten up. What in you could be straightened by Jesus’ touch?

 

Prayer:  Loving God, set me free from the shame and fear that cripple me, from the guilt and sorrow that weigh me down. Lift me up so that, strengthened by your touch, I can stand in the truth of your love.

 

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J. www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

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New Release!

Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament explores what happened when Jesus healed, what it might have been like for the people involved, and what it means for us today.

Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes” takes a down to earth look at the diverse assortment of biblical characters called by God.

Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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