Monday, September 25, 2017

The narrow path of true virtue.

Ecclesiastes 7: 16-17 16 Do not be over righteous,

    neither be overwise—

    why destroy yourself?

17 Do not be overwicked,

    and do not be a fool—

    why die before your time?

18 It is good to grasp the one

    and not let go of the other.

    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes

That verse has mulled in my mind for over twenty years.  (What can I say? I’m a slow learner, but I don’t give up.)  In the books of the Tanach, Ecclesiastes is my favorite, so it’s no mystery why I would cling to this little verse until I understood.  First, let me explain what I mean by “understood”.  Upon reading this, the surface of what it means is obvious and simple.  “Don’t go to extremes.”  What is not so obvious is just exactly how one does that.  If we are honest as a people then we must accept we are people of extremes.  There are extremists in every walk of life and in every genre you can imagine.  From the vegan who believes all meat eaters should be cursed with cancer, to the religious zealot who would see everyone cursed with hell that isn’t a part of their ideology-and everything in between, from the ridiculous to the sublime.  We are people of the pendulum that often gets stuck on one side or another.

The virtue continuum picture is something I found a few years ago while studying stoic philosophy.  (Don’t judge me, St. Paul had a good working knowledge of it too.)  Yet, I still didn’t make the connection until a couple of weeks ago when I was praying vespers and doing some of my own readings.  Then I had an “AHA!” moment.  This verse fits with the Seven Virtues of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and then obviously what Jesus was teaching.  Since we tend to be all or nothing people, our lives swing from one extreme to the other, but what we are called to be are people of temperance, the narrow path, which is where the Godly life is found.  It’s also in 2 Peter 1:5-7, one of the places we actually get the seven virtues and can extrapolate the seven vices. 

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love (the greatest of these is Love), none of which are possible on the extremes of the spectrum.  In fact, none of the virtues we seek are found in the extremes. Ecclesiastes told us that to begin with, but like me, so many people are slow learners and need more detail. 

We need to walk the narrow path between darkness and false light.  The darkness may be easier to spot and avoid, since many times it leads to the more obvious spiritual and physical harm.  The left side of the extreme has its’ charms in that it is easy, takes not a lot of effort, offers temporary pleasure/comfort, and does not challenge us to do much.  The right side is a bit more insidious, because it can SEEM so RIGHT.  We are DOING things.  We are clinging to our correctness!  In the end though, it’s just as destructive as the left.  Only in the middle, that balance, do we find a true and holy path. 

Jesus calls us to love, and we cannot love outside the middle ground.  Jesus calls us to serve, and we can’t do that outside the centered path. We are called to Love God above all, and we can’t do that on either side of this pendulum, because both the right and the left aren’t about God, they are about us.  That’s the crux of it all in a nut shell, that is what I discovered in this verse from Ecclesiastes.   I guess that’s part of why it tripped me up for so long, I couldn’t understand half of it.  How can being too righteous be a bad thing? Aren’t we all wanting to be saints? Aren’t we all in need of holiness?  Ahhh, yes, but over righteousness isn’t about Him, it’s about us. (1 Corinthians 13 talks about that. If we can speak God’s word with power, but don’t love we’ve gotten nowhere…and so on.)  Over righteousness isn’t about the heart and spirit of the law, it’s about the letter of the law and the human power we perceive it gives us over lesser mortals.  (See the example of Jesus’s interaction with the religious ruling class of his time.) 

Now I think I have the foundation of the understanding of this very simple scripture.  How do I begin to truly embrace this path in my everyday life?  I am reminded of Rabbi Hillel’s famous statement to a potential convert, “That which is hateful to you do not do to others, the rest is just commentary. Now go and study.”  The same is true in this, I believe.  That which is good and guides us to God can be summed up. “Put the love of God about all things and you’ve found the narrow path, the rest is just commentary…now go and study.” 

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Heavenly Father, I pray today that I find the narrow path that leads me to you in all my ways, and in all things.  Let me be neither too righteous nor too wicked, but always obedient to You who gives life. In Jesus precious name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Monday, September 18, 2017

Only the truth, not our ego, changes the world.

Sir 27:30—28:7, 1 Tm 2:1-8

I have been examining my conscience about a few things and I’d like to share.  Every day in my life and in social media I see people of all faiths and creeds up in arms about, well, everything.  I see priests and pastors of all denominations lashing out about politics and dogma at each other. I see people protesting one thing or another and fighting.  It happens so much, and by people I respect, that I began to feel like perhaps I was wrong-even sinning- by not participating as well. It’s not like I don’t think things that are happening are wrong, I do.  I don’t agree with all government or religious teachings.  That said, there are a few things that have prevented me from joining the culture of outrage, and some of those are brought up in the first two readings from yesterday and today, the other I will share after we examine the scripture. 

Sir 27:30—28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,

yet the sinner hugs them tight.

The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,

for he remembers their sins in detail.

Forgive your neighbor's injustice;

then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Could anyone nourish anger against another

and expect healing from the LORD?

The first part of reading of Sirach slaps me in the face every time I read it for many reasons.  It’s VERY human of us to be instantly angry whenever we see something we perceive as wrong or unjust, yet this scripture spanks us.  It’s not the only warning in the Holy Scripture about this either.  The Our Father directly says, “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US.”  Jesus taught us that.  He said directly, ask the Father for forgiveness, but only to the level we forgive others. For ETERNAL reasons, this is not something we can just pay lip service.  To make this understanding a reality I suggest an exercise.  Write down everything/person you hold anger against, and then circle the things you feel you can’t forgive.  Those are what you are willing to go to hell for.  Those would be the things you’d be willing to hand over all your power and help you separate/cut/sever your relationship with the Eternal God.  This is not because God desires it, He’s told us in a thousand different ways, and shown us in the ultimate way, that He does not.  This is because we consciously choose to cling to what we have been told not to, and in doing so are disobedient.  Meditating on that, kicks me in every tender spot on my body, mind, and soul.  Then I see this connection….

1 Tm 2:1-8


First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,

petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,

for kings and for all in authority,

that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life

in all devotion and dignity.

This is good and pleasing to God our savior,

who wills everyone to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God.

There is also one mediator between God and men,

the man Christ Jesus,

who gave himself as ransom for all.

This was the testimony at the proper time.

For this I was appointed preacher and Apostle

(I am speaking the truth, I am not lying),

teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,

lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

Timothy starts off instructing us to pray for EVERYONE.  Pray for the kings and all people in any authority. He encourages a life of tranquil devotion and dignity, and hints that prayer and living the truth aid in leading people to salvation, because of knowledge and truth.  At the end he would like to see us all lifting holy hands without anger or argument.  Let’s put some historical context on this.  In Timothy’s time, Rome ruled and Caesar was literally setting himself up to be worshipped as a god.  They had temples to pagan gods.  They had everything we had now, plus public “entertainment” which included the slaughter of real people.  This was the time of all the apostles.  Not one of them encouraged anyone of the converts to go to the temple of Ares and hold a sign telling the worshippers they were going to hell.  Take it back a step, and Jesus himself didn’t do that either.  Jesus didn’t protest Caesar, or Herod, or the pagan god makers.  Jesus did, because he had ultimate authority, deal with the internal matter of people who claimed to be His Father’s people (the money changers in the temple), but to every other injustice that was happening, He didn’t waste a single word of protest.  So how did He and the apostle change the world? They changed it in love, forgiveness, compassion in action, prayer, obedience, humility, love, and most of all….by speaking, in all those ways, only what was true. 


That’s a far cry from how we handle our world most of the time isn’t it?  We share and re-share the local/political/religious “idiot” and make no bones about call him/her out about what an idiot they are.  (Matthew 5:22 has something to say about that.)  We live in a culture of calling people out, when we should be the culture of lifting people up.  We have lost the understanding that people won’t be pro-life (babies, themselves, elderly, sick, addicted, disabled, black, white, red, yellow, Jewish, Gentile, slave, free, and all) until they understand that EVERY life is precious to God, through God, and with God.  You can’t protest your way to that understanding, you can only pray, teach, forgive, and love them there.  The philosophy of “the beatings will continue until moral improves” is the worlds, and we must be people of healing, truth, love, and forgiveness, that is the Eternal.  One way, we are putting our will and ego on display, the other way we are surrendering our will to give God control.  It’s an important difference.

Just some food for thought and prayer….

Almighty, and Heavenly Father, I lay my ego and desires at the foot of the cross and ask that you redeem them so that I may be obedient to your every wish and become a truth spreader in this world in need of Your light.  In Jesus precious name, AMEN. 

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Born Again Catholic-Saint in training

Col 3:1-11, Nm 21:4b-9, Phil 2:6-11, Jn 3:13-17

The last couple days of our Mass readings have been robust with the plan of salvation.  As Catholics, we get hit with that question A LOT by our Protestant brothers and sister.  Are you saved?  Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?  Have you been born again?  This isn’t language we use, and I can imagine cradle Catholics being outright flummoxed by the questions-which makes the asker all the more vehement in the need to press on with their questioning.  As a convert though, I’ve been exposed to, and have lived, in both sides of these questions.  Here I hope to bridge the gap a little, so that when asked you can reply in the same love the questions are asked, without misunderstanding.  I want to explore the similarity and the difference between our thinking so we can bridge the gap of understanding. 

Getting saved-The conversion experience:

In the many of the Protestant churches salvation is a moment of conversion, where we make the choice to follow Jesus, we repent of our sins, now saved by grace, and we walk in newness of life.  We have a similar understanding even if we don’t call it “getting saved”.  Our history is resplendent with such moments though. St. Xavier started off going to university to become a priest so he could have an easy living, while he was there he was the medieval version of a frat boy, until St. Ignatius befriended him, he went through the Ignatius’s spiritual exercises (The exercises), after which he resolved to truly walk with Christ in obedience.  The result was that he shunned the potential of his cushy post back in his hometown, followed St. Ignatius to Rome where they founded what would become the Jesuits.  That resulted in him being sent to Asia where he baptized thousands.  Interestingly, Ignatius himself had such a conversion moment after he was wounded in a war.  So, what they are asking you (whether they realize it or not) is have you stopped being a Catholic in name only and made the choice to be obedient to God through Jesus.  Have you made the commitment to be a Saint in training? 

The difference between their understanding and ours is small but integral.  They see it as a single commitment which earns/grants salvation.  We tend to see it as the first commitment, that we must renew evermore after. In other words, we must constantly seek, repent, and focus on Him to remain in a state of obedience, which allows us many graces including what we ultimately hope for which is Heaven itself.   That is a personal relationship with Jesus.  That is making him Lord and Savior of your life. 

In our reading in Numbers today, we begin to see this plan of salvation foreshadowed in the Jewish wilderness experience.  Poisoned by the snake, they were dying.  It’s not too farfetched to realize that we were, in Genesis, poisoned by the snake which brought death into the world.  God commanded Moses to make a bronze saraph and mount it on a pole so that all who gazed on it would be healed.  It’s a picture of that which was killing them being killed so that it would bring healing upon them.  Sound familiar?  In our crucifix, we have the picture of a similar understanding. Jesus took on our sins, and if we look to Him, we are healed.  (Phil 2:6-11 John 3: 13-17) 

In yesterday’s first reading we have a picture of what that obedience must look like: Brothers and sisters:

If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,

where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ your life appears,

then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:

immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,

and the greed that is idolatry.

Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.

But now you must put them all away:

anger, fury, malice, slander,

and obscene language out of your mouths.

Stop lying to one another,

since you have taken off the old self with its practices

and have put on the new self,

which is being renewed, for knowledge,

in the image of its creator.

Here there is not Greek and Jew,

circumcision and uncircumcision,

barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;

but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians reminds us that this mystical birth and resurrection we obtain when we follow Jesus demands some things of us.  We can come to the cross just as we are, because we can’t get more holy and THEN become obedient.  We must become obedient and that makes us more holy!  That my brothers and sisters is the daily choice to be the saint in training we are meant to be.  Are we saved by these works? No.  We are saved by grace, but this grace is something we must always be mindful to submit ourselves too.  Look to the Holy Cross and don’t turn away.

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Heavenly Father, I ask for the strength and grace that will allow me, every day, to keep my eyes focused on the salvation you have given through Jesus, your son.  I humbly submit myself to you and whatever path you lay that brings me closer to you.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me,

Lisa  L. Brandel

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fight like a Christian

Matt 18: 15-20

I am skipping ahead to Sunday’s Gospel today, because as I was reading and prepping today it slapped me in face.  As Christians, we’ve lost the ability/understanding of how to disagree in a Godly manner.  We become a house divided instead of a unified voice of the love Jesus to the world.  In other words, we handle our problems like the world does, which makes us no different, and that my friends isn’t what we are called to do.  Let’s take a look at what the Gospel says, how it plays out in the world, and how the Gospel can live with us now. 

How we handle arguments/fights in the world:

Let’s pretend for a moment that Steve owes you 500 dollars.  You have an agreement on repayment (he’s going to pay you back when he get’s paid next week).  Next week comes and instead of paying you back you see him blow his money on something you consider frivolous.  (When someone owes you money often everything except your debt seems frivolous.)  Now, as the world handles this, instead of going to Steve, in love and concern, because he’s sinned against us, we go to Sally and we complain about Steve.  We tell Sally what Steve did, did not do, and what we think about that.  That isn’t enough though, when we see Tom we casually bring it up too, and we might even add some colorful language and detail.  At this point, we start to have some dark fun guessing at his other bad habits, and bring up that thing he did in 1998 to us, and figure we should have seen this coming.  Maybe we even go to social media and make some passive aggressive post about how you figure you can trust friends, and the bitterness of pain it causes when that trust is broken.  We might throw in a quote from Rumi or Ram Dass, as a way to show everyone how we are transcending the low treatment we’ve received.  Anyway, before you know it, Steve hears from Shelia that we have a beef, and much like the telephone game we used to play in school where things get distorted with exaggerated he hears a semblance of the story, and begins his counter attack.  So it goes, ad infinitum, until not only are we not friends we are enemies. We’ve lost a friend. We aren’t getting paid back. And we ourselves have gone from person who was wronged to active sinner. 

That sounds about par for the course, doesn’t it?  You don’t have to look very far in our modern age to see that story played out in a thousand ways, over ten thousand things, every hour of every day in every venue.  Religion, politics, lunch, parenting, friendships, marriages, animal care, elder care, every single possible combination in ways that not even I have the imagination to reproduce here.  We have made an art of this kind of behavior. 

Let’s take a look at how we are supposed to handle things and why. 

15"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

In the above scripture, we have what we are supposed to do.  We go to the person who has wronged us privately, one on one.  Why?  Well, when we approach the person who has wronged us we allow both parties the dignity of privacy.  We get to hear their side of the story, and work out an accord with them, without any public airing of the grievances.  It goes on to say, if they listen (and we listen) then we’ve won a brother or sister.  In other words, we have shown them that we are straight forward, respectful, and acting in love for them (not just ourselves).

If they don’t listen, we take one or two others.  These people are witnesses, not only to the discussion we have, but to the actions we take.  We have our cards on the table, open for all to see.  They can support our claims, and make sure we aren’t getting out of hand.  In some venues, we call this an intervention.  It’s done when someone is harming themselves, and they need a harsh light cast on the behavior in order that they might begin the healing process.  It’s an act of love.  At this point the sin your brother or sister committed against you, since they weren’t open to amends, may be a symptom of a bigger issue in their life. 

If they don’t budge on that, then we take it to the Church.  We go to our priest or pastor, who then can advise us on our next step.  If none of this works, then we are to walk away.  Drop it, and leave, not speaking about it or them. 

The interesting part of this is the Jewish laws and customs of the time about the “Goy” (gentile) was such that it forbade partnerships/commerce with those who worship of pagan idols. (Mishnah Avodah Zarah 1:1).  There is a load more about the restrictions and responsibilities in that vein, but the crux of it is that it doesn’t release us from the responsibility of behaving properly toward them, but it is a cutting of a deeper fellowship. 

It’s just some food for thought on the charge we have to behave as we should, even when we have been wronged, as we learn to forgive not just seven times, but seven times seventy.

Heavenly Father, please grant me the grace to handle the people who have wronged me in the honorable and Godly way that is your will.  In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The rejection factor

Luke 4: 16-30 and Jeremiah 20: 7-18

Sometimes the office of readings and the mass readings offer me a perfect synchronicity of theme or understanding.  The other day, this was very present in the two readings.  Jeremiah is a prophet that I feel very connected to through his transparency of humanity.  He’s a smart man, a Godly man, and honest about how hard doing God’s will truly is.  He is also open about the fact that the truth within is unbearable to keep contained.  When you have the truth, and God speaks to you to tell that truth, it’s harder to say no than it is to be obedient.  I love the fact that in these verses he shares that struggle, and his angst with us all. 

Jeremiah 20: 7-10

7You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. 10I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side!

He is basically up in God’s face right there, mad about being compelled or called in this way.  He is telling us that it is a double-edged sword, and he feels like he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.  He goes on to explain that the truth (God’s path) is like fire in his bones that he cannot deny. It gives us the picture that doing His will is hard but not doing His will is harder to the point of self-destruction.  I think we all need that reminder and picture as from that time to this it hasn’t changed.  Being in God’s will, taking that faith step, is daunting until/unless we realize that NOT doing His will is a path to destruction. Not just self-destruction, think of what would happen to the people who didn’t get the message, not just of Jeremiah, but any of the prophets and apostles who were charged with carrying the truth to the world.  Their message may have only changed one mind, saved one spiritual life, yet if they were not obedient all would have been lost.  Obedience is such grace!

Yet, as important as all that is, there was one commonality in the readings that stuck out to me bold as brass.  It was something that, I think, might be the crux of our own fear as we align ourselves with the will of God. 

Jeremiah 20: 10

10I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let's denounce him!" All my friends are waiting for me to slip,


Luke 4: 16-30

16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18"The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor." 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. 23Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself!' And you will tell me, 'Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'" 24"Truly I tell you," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed-only Naaman the Syrian." 28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

This happens to Jesus, as it did Jeremiah.  The people Jesus grew up around, perhaps his home town friends, reject him violently.  Jeremiah said it too.  Sometimes, the people we love most fondly, the people who know us best, reject us the most harshly.  If we have had a powerful conversion, if we have had a change of heart toward something (sin or a life choice), if we have been charged or changed to do something in God’s will…in our humanity we tend to think that our friends are going to celebrate this newness/abundance of life with us.  Yet, the picture of both Jeremiah and Jesus both tell us that this isn’t always the case.  They show us in scripture that the people closest to us will often be our criticizers.  They may point to our past, bring out our mistakes from then, or attempt to diminish our truth by looking for our mistakes.  It happens on a less personal basis in the world too.  Ten thousand Christians can come to the aid in a disaster and no one bats an eye until one Christian screws up and it’s all over the news. 

There are several points in all of this, which I hope you meditate on, but the crux is an understanding of action in spite of reaction.  No matter how hard it is, stay in God’s will.  No matter who accuses you, cling to the truth.  No matter how embarrassing having our flaws and mistakes pointed out to the world is, keep your eyes front and facing the light of the path God has for you.  All of that stuff is temporary, but the reward of obedience is eternal.  The devil knows our name and calls us sin, God knows our sin and calls us His children-both things are true, especially when we are walking in obedience to Him.  If we are rejected, we are in good company.

Just some food for thought and prayer….

Father, no matter the earthly consequences please grant me the grace and strength to walk in Your will for my life. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in Your righteous path, no matter how unorthodox it seems to the people who know me best.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The counter-culture of conformity to Christ

Romans 12 1-2

Flappers, Beatniks, Hippy, Goth, Hipster, and so on and so forth ad nauseum are a very tiny list of counter-culture movements through the ages.  Each group was revolutionary for the time, each giving the proverbial “up yours” to the established cultural paradigm.  They changed their moment then went out of fashion and became accepted by the culture on one level or another, and then the next movement came which seemed a little more radical than the last.  Each movement though, was temporary, and the people who embodied them generally only temporarily belonged to them.  Flappers “grew up”, got married, had children, and became the grandmothers of the Hippy.  The Hippy eventually stopped smoking pot, traded in their fringe jacket and peace signs for a three-piece suit and mortgage. What I found infinitely amusing as I read about counter culture through the ages is that the participants of the previous counter culture almost always find the next generation of them completely ridiculous and unacceptable.  They take on the mind set of “the sky is falling” and the next generation is doomed, forgetting that their parents and the people before them all said the same thing about them.  We humans are funny creatures that way.

At it’s start, Christianity was a counter culture and in fact if we really read our reading today, we are called to be the ultimate counter culture. 

Romans 12: 2

2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

The difference between us and them is simple but at it’s foundation profound.  The counter cultures I mentioned all adjusted (or attempted to adjust) the patterns of the world they lived in.  Our call is not to do that at all, but to be transformed ourselves-not by adjusting the world pattern we live in but by renewing our minds (by seeking and attempting to think as God does). 

Jesus and scripture talks about this idea many times.  John 17:14-16, John 15:19, John 8:22-24, 1 John 4:5, 1 John 2:15-17, James 4:4,  and 1 Peter 2:11-12. 

We are to conform ourselves to Him, and that is the most radical thing we can do in this world which conforms only to earthly ideas.  We are to be citizens of a greater kingdom than we live in, and in so doing become lights to the world around us.  Which, if I need to explain, does ultimately change how we relate to the world and the world itself. 

The hippy held a sign in protest of many things.  We need not do that.  We need to be a sign, which is the protest of all things apart from God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit which lives within us and inspires us to be not of this world.  This is not the non-conformist thinking of the world, but a thinking that might allow us to perfectly conform to God’s will. 

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Heavenly Father, renew my mind that I might become a sign in this world of your Holy Love.  Allow me to cast off the things of this world that keep me bound to it, so that I might be free in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Here I am, Lord, send me,

Lisa L. Brandel

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ruthless, or Ruth. Boaz or Bozo-Relationship advice for the ages

Ruth 1 and 2

How to get a good man and keep them.  If there was one answer that could be universally accepted, half the women’s magazines and targeted books would vanish from the shelves.  Funny enough, I think I see a universal truth for that in our readings from Ruth. I know my little blog post won’t be universally accepted, but I think it may offer insight that applies to both male and female.  The really cool part about this truth is that it requires no fad diet, no expensive cosmetics, and isn’t dependent on being a specific size.  You see, God’s truth doesn’t make money on how crappy you feel about yourself.  It sets you free from that, allowing you to refocus on what makes you eternally attractive. Here we go…

In Ruth 1, we have a famine.  Times are rough for the trio of females that start our story.  All of them are widows, by the way, which in this time where the men are the total providers for the family makes them especially vulnerable.  Naomi, Ruth, and Oprah, left alone in the world.  Oprah leaves, and we don’t know what happens to her, but we are left with Naomi and Ruth.  Ruth is our focus, because Ruth gives us an example of some true beauty. (After all, not only does she get her prince charming- who she is, and what she does, merits a whole book of the Scripture named after her.)  The first thing she does is stick tight to her Mother-in-law.  More than that, she accepts not only her Mother-in-law, but also God.  Let’s forget Ruth’s gender for a moment, because this is a pivotal and universal foundation point of being attractive to someone.  Male or female, we all know it’s easy to be ‘with’ someone (anyone) while times are good.  It’s this moment, when all might seem lost, that the choice of loving someone means the most.  In the modern world, we often fear that when the going gets tough our partner, friends, or family will abandon us.  It was the same then.  So, we see the first hint of Ruth’s beauty in her dedication.  She begs Naomi not to make her leave, she accepts her and her God.  Ruth wants the privilege of staying by her side, through thick and thin.  Given the condition of widowhood, and famine this moment contains a LOT of thin.   That is dedication, and if we yearn for relationships that are of value then this is something we ourselves need to learn from.

In Ruth 2, we begin to see that her beautiful humility and dedication don’t go unnoticed or unrewarded, both by God and by the person around her.  We first see that Ruth, having made this sacrifice, doesn’t feel she deserves to be treated better or be granted anything special.  How many times have we fallen into that trap?  We do something noble, and suddenly expect everyone around us should treat us better or that we deserve more for doing what was right in the first place.  She approaches Boaz’s fields to work to get food for herself and Naomi, asking only to be allowed to get the scraps.  Boaz, being a man of quality as well, and who had been told of Ruth’s dedication, sets her up to be protected and given better.  Ultimately, her dedication, and his wisdom to see that dedication brings them together as husband and wife.  It’s an important pairing, since their son becomes the father of Jesse, who is father of David, and ultimately the root from which the bloodline of Jesus comes from. 

Our focus and point in this writing are the relationship of Ruth and Boaz.  We don’t know what Ruth looked like, she may have looked like she could chew through a fence to get to a piece of corn.  Boaz never remarks on that, he is focused on who she is, and what she has done for his kinswoman.  He sees the quality of her character, and that makes him want her as a wife.  From Ruth’s perspective, we have a man who values her for who she is, and is willing to protect and care for her and her mother in law, not for what she looks like, but for who she is as a person. 

The ultimate relationship tips here, for both genders, are obvious to me and as applicable now as they were then. 

1.       Be dedicated to God, and people.

2.       Do the right thing for the right reasons, without expectation of reward.

3.       Look for that Godliness in your partner.   

A three step, no money down, no cost at all, no being made to feel inadequate in the worldly sense truth on how to get and maintain a beautiful relationship.  The cool thing is that it applies to family relationships, friendships, as well as romantic connections.  They are foundation points of all healthy relationships, and may save you from finding your “Ruthless and Bozo”, instead of your Ruth and Boaz.

Just some food for thought and prayer….

Almighty Father, please grant me the wisdom and strength to be like Ruth and Boaz, wise in seeing eternal and true beauty, let me able to make the commitment to stay by people’s side through famine and feast.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me!
Lisa Brandel