What Jesus says about love and discipleship

Words of Jesus on love/compassion:

37 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Jesus in John 13 34-35

Most of us have heard this many times, but this message is still fresh, still needed, in our world today.

It’s worth going back and reading again–and creating your own prayer about what Jesus says–right now….

Until next time, Amen! 

Augustine, Love, and Spiritual Cosmetics

When ancient spiritual writers talk about “beauty,” they are often talking about something deep, virtuous, and lovely in the soul. Surface beauty is fleeting, but the deeper soul-beauty can last forever.

32 Lent-Week 5--Compassion--Augustine

“Love is the beauty of the soul”…I think what Saint Augustine is telling us is that love is what makes our souls beautiful. He’s talking about that genuine love–the kind of love that Christ has for all people, the kind of love that is willing to die in order to save another’s life. This kind of love could be called “spiritual cosmetics” … only it’s much deeper and more profound than cosmetics could ever be…

True love for one another is what makes us beautiful–and Christ proved he believed this by staking his life on it.  I often think it’s the teachings of Jesus–his love of others– that really brought on his death on the cross. People don’t like hearing stuff like “love your enemy” or “forgive one another.” Certain people also felt their own earthly power was threatened by Jesus’ popularity–and his teaching, they thought, threatened their own earthly power.  I don’t know. I’m just thinking aloud here.

Until next time, Amen! 

Advice from Jesus about almsgiving

Words from Jesus about almsgiving:

21 Lent--week 3--almsgiving--Jesus in Matt 6 3

Jesus must have known people who were giving as a way of showing off to others. They gave to those in need (charities)  as a way to prove to others they were holy, and even “holier” than those around them. As a result, they received a good deal of praise for their actions.

It’s something to think about . . . Do we give to others because we care, or do we give to see our name emblazoned in stone for others to admire?   You can read more of what Jesus said in chapter 6 of Matthew’s gospel. (If you don’t have a bible, just google “Matthew 6  3 ” or “Matthew 6”.)

Until next time, Amen! 

Give unto others–just as you would give to Christ

Today’s quote makes me think of Matthew 25… when Jesus talks about when we care lovingly for others, especially those in need, we are also caring for Christ. When we cruelly ignore the needs of others, we are also being cruel to Christ.

19 Lent--week 3--Almsgiving--Herrick

This is a great challenge… and a life-long kind of pursuit . . .

Until next time, Amen! 

 

Good Friday–Remembering Christ’s immense love

Christians observe Good Friday today.

I find myself pondering what tremendous love God has for each one of us, and all of us together, one gigantic family of humanity.

Candles--palm--Were you there--Julie McCarty

Whether your life is full of joy now or weighed down with sadness, grief, or loneliness, I totally believe that God loves you, just as you are. God’s compassion and mercy is held out, as a gift, to all of humanity, to every single human, and that includes YOU.

You and I may not “feel” this love at all times (it’s only natural!). However, that love radiates out to us, nonetheless.  If I care about you so much, I totally believe that God cares about you much, much more… immensely, infinitely more!

My words are few today.  What can I say when all falls silent, hushed before the immense beauty and mystery of God’s love for you, for me, for all of us?

Until next time, Amen!

 

Jesus is the Light of the World

Hope the Lenten season is going well for all of you.

Here is an image I created this morning:

 

I am the light of the world--words of Jesus on yellow paint--design by Julie McCarty

Would you join me in prayer?

Dear Jesus,
You came into the world
to bring us the light of wisdom and compassion
and give us abundant life, that is,
the life of your Spirit.
Drive out all that is impure in us,
and transform us,
a little more each day
into your image and likeness.
May we become vessels of light
to all those around us,
especially those who are hurting or feel alone.
This we ask in your holy name,
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
Amen. 

Whom do you trust the most of all?

While reading Psalms this morning, this verse caught my eye:

Some trust in chariots and
some in horses,
but we trust in the name
of the Lord our God.   (Psalm 20:7)

Whom do you trust--light blue image--Julie McCarty--April 7 2014This psalm is written for those experiencing a time of great trouble, a time of stress and fear. (The first line is “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!”)  So I think that the chariots and horses are ways of defending the people, ways of keeping them safe in the time of attack.

The psalmist isn’t saying not to use chariots or horses, but rather that one’s ultimate trust, the One to actually worship and stake your whole life upon is God.

I wonder, if the psalmist wrote this for us today, living in our own culture and time, what would he or she write? There are many possible answers, but here’s one…  a bit of a stinging challenge to us all (Lent is a challenging time, isn’t it?!):

Some trust in private investment,
others in government programs,
but we trust in
the love and mercy of God.

That’s not to say we don’t need private investment or government programs. It’s that these things are not as important as placing all our faith in God.

Trusting in God doesn’t mean everything will “go my way”… That might be what some think, especially those who subscribe to the “gospel of prosperity,” but the God I believe in is much more mysterious and beyond my comprehension. God is not at my beck and call, like a servant waiting to answer my petty little whims.

For me, trusting in God means staking my whole life on the message of love and mercy that Christ taught.  It means being willing to go the extra mile or take the risk to try something new for the sake of others.

Trust means believing that, in the end, it doesn’t matter if I have wrinkles or the Vikings win or which political party has the majority in Congress. Trusting in God means believing that there is something more important and more valuable than any of these things–and that the love we practice here prepares us for the loving embrace of God in the next life.

And, yes, at times, we do this very poorly–but that’s no reflection on the truth of Christ’s message. The fact that we fail to follow through on parts of the gospel is one good reason for the season of Lent: to recognize our sins, faults, weaknesses, and ways we “miss the mark” in our relationship with God and others.

Trust means believing that despite these sins and failings of mine, Christ has overcome sin and evil–and that Christ will continue to overcome sin and evil both now and in the future.

Now it’s your turn:

How would you rewrite the psalm verse for today?
What is the Spirit of God leading you to think about today?

Lenten reflection--Some trust in -- by Julie -- April 7 2014

Feel free to share your answer in the comment section if you like.

May the good Lord bless you. . . Until next time, Amen!

 

 

Lenten reflection: Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion

I haven’t had the opportunity to blog as often lately, but I thought some of you might like to revisit a reflection I wrote three years ago about Marc Chagall’s “White Crucifixion.” I really enjoy Chagall’s unique style, and the “White Crucifixion” is  an amazing work of art –and good for Christians to ponder as we draw closer to the special time of Holy Week.

The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways: this post was brought back into my awareness when Pope Francis said “White Crucifixion” is his favorite work of art

White Crucifixion--oil painting by Marc Chagall, 1938
White Crucifixion–oil painting by Marc Chagall, 1938

 

I have found that reflecting on the “White Crucifixion” is a kind of visio divina— that is, a prayerful meditation on a work of art. It brings my mind and heart into the realm of paying attention to God. To read that post, visit April 2011 on this blog.

May the good Lord bless you with awareness of his loving presence in your life in the days ahead. . .

Until next time, Amen!

P. S.  If you enjoy this blog, look for “Spiritual Drawing Board by Julie McCarty” on Facebook. 

 

 

 

 

Planting Spiritual Seeds

We often think of spring as the season of planting. When the snow melts, little green shoots begin popping out of the ground. Farmers sow their fields and suburban growers visit the garden center.

However, if wild plants could talk, many of them would tell a different story. In nature, autumn is the time when seeds are sown. The fruit of the plant matures, and whatever is not eaten by animals, falls to the ground. Other seeds are carried away by the wind or attached to animal fur for relocation.  (In my neighborhood, squirrels are dashing about, digging holes everywhere in our lawn, storing food for the winter–and some of those seed nuts will emerge as plants come spring.)

Milkweed in autumn 2 -- photo by Julie McCarty

At this point in autumn, the seeds appear tiny and lifeless–they seem to be “dead.” Gradually, colorful dancing leaves come to rest on them, and snow blankets them in for the winter months. They disappear from view.

Dead and buried, the seeds wait. . .  And wait . . .   And wait some more. . . .

 If we did not know better, we might think the seeds were dead and gone forever, buried beneath the howling winds and snowy skies. 

But the seeds are not dead, they are merely “gone to sleep.”  Months later–many months in Minnesota!–the melting snow and warming sun will nurture these tiny, inanimate objects into life again.

Jesus used the image of planting seeds as a way to talk about spiritual principles and the kingdom of God (for example, in Matthew 13). Spreading the good news of God’s love and mercy is a lot like planting seeds. Serving others, listening with compassion, offering encouragement or comfort, building a safe and nurturing home for our children, doing our jobs in an ethical manner, praying for those who suffer, and inviting others to worship with us on Sunday are all ways we “scatter the seeds” of Christ’s kingdom of love.

At times, these spiritual seeds may appear to have no effect– but we ought not to lose heart. After all, seeds lie dormant in the winter, waiting for the warmth of springtime.  Some seeds we plant now may even mature in future generations, long after we are gone.  We do not really understand how or when all this sprouting of spiritual seeds happens–that is all in God’s hands.

For discussion or reflection:

  • What spiritual seeds do you think God is sowing within your soul at this stage of your life?
  • What spiritual seeds do you think God wants to plant in others through you today?  this week?   this autumn?

Single milkweed seed 2--photo Julie McCartyThink about it. Pray about it.

I will.

Until next time, Amen!