Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Have You Abandoned Me?

Psalm 139 says, "Where can I run from Your Spirit? Oh, where can I hide from Your Presence?
Sometimes we try to hide from God.  My last post asked why.

This week, as Christians walk through Holy Week, the question is:

                                       Does it ever feel like God has abandoned you?

I certainly have experienced this, often in my darkest moments, the times when I most desperately needed to feel God's love and presence.  What I have learned (or more accurately, what God has taught me) from these experiences is to trust that God is with me even when I can't feel Him.  God is  love, forgiveness, care, protection and tenderness.

From Isaiah 41:9-10 "You whom I have called my servant, whom I have chosen and will not cast off--Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you...."

     But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me."
     Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget,  I will never forget you.  (Isaiah 49:14-15).

For love of us, God became one of us, a human, in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus is God become human.  He experienced what human weakness and vulnerability are.  Jesus certainly knew pain and suffering, and at the most difficult moment of His life--as He faced not only death, but death by crucifixion--He experienced that same darkness I mentioned above.  From the cross, He cried out to the Father, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

He was quoting Psalm 22 "My God, my God , why have your forsaken me, far from my prayer and from the words of my cry?" (PS. 22:2).  Was it just a quote?  Was Jesus simply teaching?  I don't believe so.  I believe He truly experienced that desolate darkness of searching for God and not being able to find Him.  Am I saying that the Father abandoned His Son?  Absolutely not.  Jesus couldn't FEEL the Father's presence.  When you are in the depths of suffering, it is hard to be aware of anything other than the pain.  In the darkness, it is hard to see.  This, I think, is what happens to us at times.  It's not that God has abandoned us; it's that we are so focused on our pain that it's hard to experience anything else.  That's where surrender comes in.  The act of faith that I mentioned above is a surrender.  I stop trying to feel God and just accept that He is there and that He cares and IS helping me, even if I can't feel the help.  Often, shortly after the surrender, I feel relief, peace and then His presence.

Take some time this week to read Isaiah 49, Ps. 22 or one of the Passion narratives slowly.  Before you do, ask God to open you to hear what He wants to say to you through the words.  It doesn't matter whether or not your Christian.  It doesn't matter whether or not you even are sure you believe that there is a God.  Just give it a try and see what happens.

Blessings on your week!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Where Are You?

     Why do we sometimes want to hide from God?  Why do we run away?

     After Adam and Eve committed the first sin by disobeying God's command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they tried to hide from God:
          Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked....When they   heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day, the man and his wife hid themselves from God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:7-8).
     But it doesn't work.  God looks for them and calls out to them, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9).

     God always looks for us and calls to us.  Yes, we are sinners.  God already knows that.  We're the ones who have an issue with knowing about it.  When we sin (or become aware that we have sinned / are sinners) we want to run from God, hide from God.  Some people may do this out of fear of punishment.  Others may do it out of shame.  Shame is not necessarily a bad thing.  Shame makes us realize we did something that was wrong, something we wish we hadn't done.  Fear, also, can be useful.  If a tiger is chasing us, we need to be afraid so that we get the adrenaline to run.  Fear can help us survive.  But too much fear can cause paralysis.  Too much shame can cripple our sense of self-worth.

     So what has this got to do with God?  As I said, shame can tell us that we did something we shouldn't have done, something unworthy of a good person.  This is good.  But instead of hiding from God out of shame, we need to go to God because only God can restore us to our original dignity as His children.  But what about punishment?  Isn't this why we run?  We know we've done wrong and we know that there are consequences. So we try to hide it from God. But think about it for a moment.  GOD KNOWS.  No matter how hard we run.  No matter how hard we try to hide.  We are only fooling ourselves.  God already knows.  All of it.  Every detail and...God's reaction is to seek us and call to us.  Not to punish us, but to help us, to heal us, to restore what has been lost.

     But that's not what happened to Adam and Eve, you say.

     Isn't it?  God didn't punish Adam and Eve; God simply told them the consequences of their actions.  God didn't say, "Get out of my sight!  I can't stand to look at you sinners!"  He told them they would die and they would have to leave the garden.  Well, of course.  Because they now knew about evil as well as good, they were no longer the same people they had been when they knew only God's goodness and love.  They suffered a death, a loss of their innocent worldview.  And they had to leave the garden.  They now knew about evil.  Life could no longer be a paradise.  Do you see why God didn't want them to eat that fruit?  This was just what He was trying to prevent.  But God had given Adam and Eve free will and He gives us free will.  We have a choice of listening to His loving guidance or rejecting it.  And that choice has consequences.

   Notice that Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, but God didn't leave them.  Read further in Genesis, then Exodus...and the Prophets, and so on.  God never abandons us even though He knows we are sinners.  Actually I think God never abandons because He knows we are sinners.  He knows we are weak and foolish.  We need His wisdom, His healing and His forgiveness.  Most of all, God never abandons us because God loves us, wholly, as we are.  He keeps trying to help us and heal us.  If only we would let Him.

Do you ever feel like hiding from God?  Why?  

Have you ever run to God with your sins?  What happened?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Out Sick--Sorry!

I'm sorry that I haven't blogged the past few weeks.  An upper respiratory virus turned into pneumonia and got the better of me, so I've had to take break.  I'm on the road to recovery now, thank God, and I promise to start writing again next week.  So please check back.

By the way, one of my students recently emailed me to say that she had missed class because she was in the hospital with meningitis.   Thank God she is getting better.  She had nearly died from it.  Also thank God that I didn't get it from her while my immune system was down with the respiratory virus.  God is SO good!  He protected me when I didn't even know I was in danger.

Thanks and blessings.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A God of Compassion...and Anger?

You are so welcome here!  I am glad that you've come.  God's blessings on you.

     I was thinking about how many people view God as angry, either with them or with other people.  God is blamed for so many things, from personal illness or injury to the 9/11 attacks.  But this is not who God is or how God acts.  God does not will bad things for us.  God loves us with an aching love that longs to give us not only good things, but delightful things.  God wants us to "rejoice and be glad!"  We're the ones who get in the way of that.

     I'm not saying that bad things always come about as a consequence of our actions.  Take cancer for instance.  If someone who has smoked for forty years develops lung cancer, the smoking probably was a contributing factor.  But there are millions of people, diagnosed with cancer, who never did a thing to bring it about.  My mom, for example.  She had a rare cancer called rectal melanoma.  A CAT scan tech once joking asked her if she had done a lot of sunbathing in the nude. She laughed and told him no.  How did she get skin cancer in her rectum? Only God knows. Did she bring the cancer on herself?  No, of course not.  In 2006, she died from the disease.  How then, can I say that God wants only good things for us when God let an innocent woman get cancer, suffer a great deal of pain and die?  If God is so loving, why does He allow things like this to happen?  I'm not going to pretend that I can give a comprehensive answer to this. Through experience, I have learned many things about God, but there are so many more things I don't know--and even more that I don't understand.   What I do know is that God loves us beyond comprehension with a love that is tender and personal, not generic.  And I know that the picture of God as angry, exacting, punishing and condemning is simply wrong.  

     But don't take my word for it.  Take God's.  Read scripture.  In the New Testament, Jesus reveals how much God loves us.  And Jesus isn't all talk.  He is the loving, compassionate God personified.  The only people who don't receive forgiveness are those scribes and Pharisees who refuse to acknowledge their need for it.  Jesus demonstrated the way God loves us. He wanted to be with us.  He taught, He healed and He forgave sins.  Also, He made friends, laughed, celebrated and partied. And He willed to die for the love of us.  For us sinners.

     The Old Testament also reveals a God who is loving, merciful, compassionate and very, very patient.  More about this in the next blog.  In the meantime, read Hosea.  Read Psalm 131.  Read Isaiah.  You could even read--and meditate on--the Genesis stories of The Fall.  (There are two versions of it, by the way).  My reflections on that story would be a blog in itself, but let me just leave you with this thought.  At the end of the story yes, Adam and Eve have to leave the Garden, but before they do, God sits down and sews clothes for them.  Don't remember that part of the story?  I'm not surprised.  It's usually not emphasized.  God's maternal tenderness in sewing the clothes for Adam and Eve always gets left out of the retelling of the story.  

     Think about it: what if God sat down and sewed clothes for you to cover your nakedness, to protect you from the elements. What would that reveal to you about God and God's love for you?  If you feel that God wouldn't do that for you--and I mean you personally--ask Him about it.  Expect Him to answer. Then listen, really listen to the response.

Blessings of love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just Tend to the Watering

This morning I picked some gorgeous, plump tomatoes off the vine.  They are beautiful and I believe they will be a delight to eat.  I'd love to take credit for them, but the truth is all I did was water them.  I thought about that this morning, and that led to this thought: I just do the watering; God does everything else.  That's actually very freeing.  I don't have to make something of my life or of myself.  God will do that.  I just need to tend to the watering, to the nourishment.  And since it has been raining every day for the past four days, I am reminded that sometimes, God even takes care of the watering.

Blessings!  C.B.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Stay with us, Lord, while we are awake,
Watch over us while we sleep
That awake we make keep watch with Christ
And asleep rest in His peace.
                                       --from Compline (Night Office)

Have a save and restful night.

Be Loved

Outside, the rain is falling gently.  The sound that wraps my soul in comfort.  I can't explain why.  While I lie safely in my bed, however, delighting in the sound of the rain, I am aware that many people are in agony.  Some are dealing with the terror of war, listening to a different sound, the earth-rattling, heart-splitting sound of exploding bombs.  Others are dealing with war within their homes, the violence of arguments, rage, physical or sexual abuse.  Some people are fighting the war of cancer or Alzheimer's or unrelenting physical or emotional pain.  Some people know they will die this night.  This reality could overwhelm me with despair if I dwelt on it.  I feel helpless in the face of so much suffering. I long to comfort them, to help, to heal, to comfort each one of them. I can't.  So I do the only thing I can do; I commend each person to my Father who loves each one of them with a love beyond articulation.  He can help them, heal them, comfort them...if only they will let Him.

These thoughts may be written from the comfort of a bed but they are not written by an idealist who has never known pain nor fear.  I have been through chronic physical pain, rejection, poverty, unemployment.  I have had episodes of despondency that were so overwhelming that I have had to cry out to God with my whole being just to keep getting through the next moment.

So cry out I have.  Each time, He has responded to me with love, compassion, tenderness, gentleness and even humor.  What suffering has taught me is that God loves me and never gives up on me, even when I am ready to give up on myself.  But this lesson is not just for me. God loves you as well, even if you feel unlovable.  He loves you with a love beyond imagining and beyond reason.  He longs to wrap you in that love, to rock you, to soothe you, to heal you.  You just have to accept His love.

In this world of anger, war, violence and disease, there are many reasons to be afraid.  But tonight, as the rain continues to fall in the darkness, I give you these words, "Do not be afraid, Beloved."  You are loved.  Accept it.  Be loved.  Rest in that love and awake to a new life, not one in which all pain and suffering will   have been magically removed, but one in which you never are alone.  And always, you are loved. Be loved.