Prepare Ye The Way!

For the Love of the Spirit

Avoiding Avoiding Suffering

No.  I didn’t stutter.

You could hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, this is something you are free to do and is in accord with your nature, but perhaps precisely this ‘holding back’ is the only suffering that you might be able to avoid. (Franz Kafka)

It is human nature to recoil and try to protect our sensibilities from sufferings all around us;

  • War
  • Hunger
  • Disease
  • Sexual Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Crime
  • Addiction

Did I miss anything?  I am sure I did.  The world is full of suffering of all sorts and these are just off the top of my head.  Feel free to add to this list.

Is it enough?  Sure, it is.  It is more than enough.

Do you avoid thinking about it?  I do it more often than I wish.

It’s human nature.  We are constantly bombarded by magnitudes of suffering in the world.  We are pelted by it from the street corners and the television news.  We have 24-hour news channels devoted to bringing it directly into our living rooms and right into our faces.  During the commercials we see children with cancer, in foreign countries without clean water or adequate nutrition, and animals neglected and abused.

We avert our eyes.  We try to shut out the sounds.

Why?  It’s simple enough.  It hurts to see it.  Seeing it forces us to face it.

Facing it forces us to acknowledge the suffering that surrounds us the entire world around.

Acknowledging it takes us out of our comfort zone and makes us wonder why a loving God would permit it.

Why does God permit it?

God doesn’t permit it!

We do!

We permit it — by avoiding it.  By turning our backs and shielding our eyes and stopping our ears, we permit it.  God has us as his human agents here on earth.  He gave us his Son who in turn gave us his Holy Spirit and filled us with the love of that Spirit to do unto others as we ourselves would have done unto us.

If we love our brothers and sisters then we will cloth them when they are naked.  We will feed them when they are are hungry.  We will shelter them when they are homeless.  We will care for them when they are sick, and we will visit them when they are imprisoned.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:40 )

It has been said that all evil needs to prosper is for good people to do nothing.  I am not fooling myself or trying to fool you into thinking that we will eliminate human suffering.  I am not fooling myself or trying to fool you into thinking that human action can ever bring an end to all the ills, evils, and sufferings of the world.  That will come only when the end of time comes.  May it come soon!

But I am telling you, as Kafka said, that in spite all your trying to avoid the gross tragedies and sufferings you will still be confronted by them.  If you insulate yourself so completely that they are totally out of sight, then your spirit will still be so convicted by the horrors that this world throws up at you that you will be unable to avoid personal suffering because of your “holding back.”  Sooner or later you will suffer —guaranteed.

So look at the suffering of the world.  Turn on the news.  Look into the eyes of a homeless person.  Pray!  Dear God, pray!

Then when you are finished watching and listening and praying, get up off your couch and get out and involve yourself in doing something to relieve the suffering in whatever small or large way you can.  Get up off your wallet and donate to individuals who are dedicating their time and efforts to ease the pain that is all around them.

You don’t have to give money or material.  You just have to care enough to reach out to those less fortunate and suffering.  You need to suffer with them.  Listen please!  If you suffer with those suffering you reduce the suffering of all.

Cook a meal.  Sit and listen while someone tells you of their sufferings.  Be there for someone.

Carry the word of love.  Love someone who thinks they are unlovable.

That is what this ministry and this blog is doing.

I am reaching out to my readers with the love of God and exhorting you to reach out to others.  I  go out into the streets and carry the love of God to the People of the Streets.  I volunteer my time to a local organization that provides Peer Support for those who are mentally ill.

Help Love of the Spirit in its ministry to carry out its missions and goals.  Go to the CONTACT page and donate through the address you find there.  The ministry will use all donations to relieve suffering and feelings of Lovelessness and Loneliness.  It will use all donations to carry the love of God, and, God willing, will one day grow to reach more.

Be a Torchbearer of the Light

In Christ’s Love, Michael

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January 29, 2012 Posted by | Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Mighty Way

In response to an email from me on current happenings in my life and how God is using me for service and guiding me in my calling, one of my spiritual and religious mentors, Pastor Elizabeth Emrey, wrote me saying,

“You are in my prayers. I am glad that God is using you in a mighty way.” (emphasis added)

Everything God does is mighty!

By definition of his omnipotence, God cannot help but act in mighty ways.  I had not thought about what God was doing in my life quite in those words, but once it was “out there” I meditated on it.

Every act of God, no matter how small it may seem, or how it may be compared in magnitude to other acts of his Divine Grace and Mercy, is exactly equal to any act that flows from the godhead of our Holy Father.  Everything that comes from God comes from an absolute source and exists in perfection and power.

Can there be ANY limitation to the acts or results that are initiated by God?

Technically, the answer is no, but practically the answer is Yes!

How can this be?  How is it possible for the will of God to be limited by ANYTHING?

When humans are the tools employed by God then there are, in human terms, imperfect results.  Men and women are subject to all the imperfect traits in any human.  We are subject to sickness, temptation, pride, and, in the end, especially death.  We are subject to Sin.

The virtue of a tool is judged by its ability to perform the job required of it.

So, why would God use an imperfect tool to carry out his perfect will?

Why would he not just go ahead and bring into reality his will just by the absolute force of his power without relying on human agency?

Part of the answer is achieved by first realizing what his will is.  The will of God is to bring his children into reunification with him.  That is the whole story of the Bible.  The first humans embodied as they were in the genesis story of Adam and Eve were created in perfect union.  Nothing else needed doing.

God even instructed them what NOT to do (eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), and gave them an alternate recourse to perpetuate the perfect union of humanity and God (eat of the Tree of Life).  I think you know the outcome of that enterprise.  That is where the lesson of the less than perfect tool comes in.

The story of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and humanity’s eating of it is a metaphor of the Free Will that humans possess.  In that (among other ways), we are in the spiritual Image of God.  Humans alone of all animals possess the quality of God’s Free Will.  God didn’t create man and woman to be automatons.  He created children.  Someone he could love as beings like himself — and who could love him in return without being forced.

By exercising free will we may chose to follow his will or our own.  When we chose our will over his, then the nature of our humanity causes us to act in contradiction to his will.  We are told in the bible that merely to THINK in contradiction is as bad as the act.  First the thought comes, brothers and sister, then the act — cause and effect.  Effect never precedes cause.

The nature of our humanity causes us to want to be god in ourselves.  When God speaks to us and tells us his will and it is not what we want to do, then rebellion arises — always and without fail.

If we are called by God into service of his will and follow that will then we will perform as best we are able, given all the limitations of body and spirit.  The stronger our faith in his will and in his love for us then the greater our virtue to be able to carry out that will as it is spoken to us.  The greater our virtue the more we will grow in faith and love.  In this life and in our bodies (flesh) we cannot be perfect in faith.  Faith does not become perfect until we are face to face with our creator and then faith ceases to exist and becomes absolute knowledge.

We will know as we have been known.  Glory!

So, rolling around back to the beginning of this post, is God truly using me in a mighty way?

I believe he is.  The goal he has in mind is that of which I am unsure!

Is it to serve his children by bringing and leading them to the love he has for them?

That must be part of it.  But, I am left looking at my efforts and wondering if this tool — this body, mind and spirit that I possess — is adequate for the job.

If not, then why use me for the task?  Why not use someone better suited — stronger in all three aspects?

I am full of pride, though less than previously.  Most (I hope) of that stupid pride has been burned and beaten out of me by previous failures to completely follow his will and my failure to have complete faith that nothing of my will is adequate for the completion of divine will.

So maybe that is a part of it.  Maybe part of the mighty way I am being used is for MY benefit!  As I practice following his will, I get better at it.  As I put my faith into action, the greater my faith becomes.  As I share God’s love, the greater that his love becomes in me.

And maybe, just maybe, he is is using this imperfect, error prone, tool because that is the way it works best.  Maybe, just maybe, it is by viewing others just like me as they grow in love and virtue in God, that others see solid examples of the possible!  As his might is seen in me in imperfect representation as a frail human, the more to the Glory of his Love that he should choose such a weak vessel to be the object of Divine Grace.

In the end I am left with more questions than answers.  The closer I get to following his will, the more my faith grows and the more that is revealed to me.  And each step along the way, the questions get the less.  It is not that the more I know the more I realize that I do not know.  That is indeed just the case.  The more knowledge given to me the more I realize just how much there is to be learned.

No.  The questions get less, because I don’t need the answers as much.  All will be revealed, if I just wait on the Lord.  His love is sufficient.

merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

January 19, 2012 Posted by | God, Personal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Actualizing Salvation

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that was he has done has been done through God. (John 3:21)

In order for truth to be real — actual — you have to practice it.  “In Theory . . . ” means nothing in the real world.  “Reality” is what is measurable and open to examination and example.

We are hired for jobs based on prior experience and references from others who can attest to our proven ability.  We are fired if we cannot show by concrete example that what we say we can do, we can actually do.

“Well, she TALKS a good game . . .,” is a common expression and highlights the point here.

The same is true in religion as it is in the secular world.  It is true in the eye of God, as it is in the eye of humans.  Another common expression is, “They who cannot do, teach.” Despite its extreme cynicism, it holds a very large kernel of truth.  In religion it might be expressed as, “Practice what you preach.”

If I say that I am saved, but do not act as though I am saved, then I am sending a VERY strong message that I am NOT saved!  Is that who I am trying to impress — people who might happen to think that my state of salvation is of some personal importance to them ?  NO!  It’s not about trying to impress ANYONE, not even and especially God.

It will show itself.

If you live in the truth, you will act truthfully.  If you live in love, you will act lovingly.  If you have faith, you will behave faithfully.  If you are saved, you will act as though you are saved.  You may not do any of these things as well as you would like or as well as others think you should, but none of it is easy.  And, until you reach paradise, its all a matter of degree anyway!

We are given plenty of opportunities to express any of these qualities in daily life.  When we do act on these divine qualities and are slapped down by the world as a result we have two options.  We may stay down and avoid the risk and consequent pain that accompanies a failed risk, OR we may pick ourselves back up and continue to do that which actualizes the thought.  Doing that — actualizing the thought — is a sign of the faith that we profess.  The more we act on our faith the stronger our faith becomes and NOT by practice.  It is because acting on our faith brings it more and more into actuality by its presence in the real world as well in the spirit.  The glorious part is that the stronger our faith is the greater our received rewards for practicing it and actualizing.

There may even come a point where your faith is so great that all fear of putting it into practice will disappear.  This is a definite sign that you are becoming perfected in love.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  (I John 4:18)

How do you act like you’re saved?  If you are already saved, then you already know.  If you are not already saved, then get saved.  In the meantime, whether you are already saved or not, get into the Word of God and pray for revelation and understanding.  Meditate on the messages streaming back from God.  Open your ears and listen for a change.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Faith | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Good To Hear It

God loves you and so do I

Tell someone today.  Don’t wait too long and forget.  The sooner you do it the better and the more often the better yet.  Tell a loved one, an acquaintance, or a stranger.  You don’t need a prologue, but if you think it makes it less awkward you might start with, “I just wanted to tell you . . ..” Or something like that.

Before I forget and while I am on the subject — to all my readers here by chance or design, I just want to tell you that God loves you, and so do I.

michael

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Love | , | Leave a comment

God/Man

A man came into the world born of the Spirit of God.  He was completely filled by that Spirit and was engrossed in its totality.  So full was he that his faith in it was perfect.  The integration of flesh and divine spirit was so great that his spirit became the spirit of the divine.  He was in body 100% human.  He was made of bone and blood, temptations and emotions.  He was in spirit 100% God and possessed of the faith that comes through revelation.

He recognized the distinction between himself and God.  He spoke of God in the second person and called him, “Father.”  He prayed to the Father as one who was separate, yet not quite distinct.  He was the Messiah — hope for the world and the bane of death.  He became death itself and by his divine spirit threw death down and rose again in purified body and Holy Spirit only to ascend to live eternally in perfect and separate union with the One, his Father, from whom all life and love originates and proceeds.

To us, brothers and sisters of this Man/God, he gave with open arms the gift which elevated his fragile human form to Godhead.  To us, he gave the Spirit that was given to him by the Creator, by whose Grace we have become — Jew and Gentile — joint heirs to the life and glory to which he was the first-born, world beater, and conqueror of death.

African, European, Asian, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu — female and male — all are children of God and all that is required to rise to our inheritance is acceptance of our spiritual genealogy.

That Spirit is all around us.  To receive it we need merely ask and open ourselves to its infilling love.  For it to remain we need merely ackmowledge its divine presence and redemptive loving power.

Selah

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Redemption | , , , | Leave a comment

Let Us Come Together

Let us come together as believers in one God.  Let us come together as disciples of the one known as Jesus of Nazareth, who was and is and always will be as one with God.  Let us come together as recipients of the Holy Spirit of God which infused his Son and which God gave to the world by the sacrifice of the Anointed, the Christ, the Lamb of God.

Let us come together in a Church of the Holy Spirit of God’s Love to share the blessings and promises of the one God of love and mercy, to praise his goodness and power, to support one another in body and spirit and to build and strengthen our faith through the sharing of his holy word.

Let us come together and rejoice that as he lives, so do we and that as he loves, so do we love our brothers and sisters.

Let us come together and proclaim our inheritance as adopted children and joint heirs with our brother Jesus.

In Peace,

In Joy,

In Love,

Let us come together.

Yes!

October 26, 2011 Posted by | Church | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

Greetings!

It has been three weeks since my last posting here and a great deal has happened.  I went to a regional conference of my church denomination — American Baptist Churches — USA — and I have moved positively toward bringing ministry to the male inmates of Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail.  I am waiting to hear from the Director of Jail Programs to set up the first trip to the institution.

With two other church members and with acknowledgment of Pastor Liz Emrey of New Beginnings Christian Community, ideas have been floated and are being prayed on and researched for church fund raising events and a committee to plan and organize.

In addition, I am still trying to get the website up for the ministry associated with this blog — Spirit of Love — but am stymied by tragically slow connection speed and connection interruptions.   Please continue to pray for all these concerns as you are moved by the Holy Spirit of the infinitely loving God.

O.K. Announcements are out of the way.  I will turn now to the theme of this article — Praise, Gratitude, and Love.

As I get into the text I would like you to keep in mind three questions;

  • For what am I grateful,
  • Why should I give praise to God, and
  • How does the love of God affect my life?

Praise, Gratitude, and Love

To begin, let’s distinguish between “gratitude” and “praise.”  “Gratitude” is a feeling.  “Praise” is a physical act which springs from the feeling.  If I am homeless and hungry and you give me food, I may feel grateful.  If I tell you how thankful I am and how I believe you are a good person for doing it, then I am offering my gratitude to you in the form of praise.  If I say “God bless you” for your deed, then I am praising you to God and invoking his blessings on you for your love and generosity.

If I feel grateful for nothing, then I certainly will not be offering any praise to God or anyone or anything else for that matter.  All of us have heard the expression, “Thanks for nothing!”  This of course can only be taken to be sarcastic for it is illogical to offer gratitude or praise when nothing is given.

The Ungrateful

Many of us spend much of our lives with a profound lack of gratitude.  So many people in the world either do not have enough of what they  need that it seems that there is very little for which to be thankful.  This ranges from the very worst examples of those in third world countries who are literally starving to death and die in large numbers from infant mortality to rampant diseases made exponentially worse by lack of medicine and health care.  We can understand and deeply sympathize with these unfortunates.  How can we blame anyone living and dying in these conditions for a lack of gratitude?

At the other end of the spectrum, are those people who have access to many of the good things of life in the developed world but still are in misery because they don’t see anything for which to be grateful.  For many decades, I was one of these individuals.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.Lk 6:35 (NIV)

I was born and raised with many of the advantages of life.  I was a citizen of the United States.  I never wanted for food or shelter.  I was healthy and had good access to health care.  I was relatively secure in my person and belongings, as I was protected by a loving mother and father and living in a society that provided protection under an equitable system of justice.  In addition, I enjoyed many luxuries.  My family was not wealthy but neither were we poor.  I wore new clothes and had music and television constantly available.  My family had a car and when I was old enough to drive, I was allowed to drive the family car.  When I could afford one of my own I had my own transportation.  We went on vacations at least once a year and dined out as well as went to outside entertainment events including weekend music festivals.

Yet, from the time I was a very young man until my 50th year, I was profoundly unhappy.  I was saved at an early age and believed in God without question, but I also slipped into alcoholism at an early age as well.  I blamed others for my failure to succeed at anything.  The worse my alcoholism became, and the more my personal problems increased because of it, the more my lack of gratitude increased, until it became nearly total.  I failed to feel gratitude or give thanks for anything that God provided me, because I mistakenly believed that God had given me nothing.

When I truly reached the point where I had next to nothing, when even my physical health and sanity were deserting me, I reached back out to God.  I was down to the very last thing for which I truly could be grateful at that point in a very miserable state of existence, and that one thing was the Love of the Holy Spirit.  Even then I did not cry out with a feeling of gratitude.  It was more a cry of final desperation.

The SPLIT SECOND I made that cry and pleaded with God to remove the demon and the disease, the love of the being who allowed his own son to be tortured and killed for my sake reached into my chest and yanked out the writhing blackness that was rotting me inside.  Body, mind, and soul were at near death.  The moment of the black departure was followed immediately by an inrushing of incredible brightness and love and outrushing gratitude.  I shouted HALLELUJAH! It was my first expression of praise to a merciful and gracious God in decades.  It was certainly not to be my last.  From that day nearly five years ago to this, I praise the Spirit that loved the wretched, sinful man I was enough, to step down from his place in paradise and rescue me.

(to be continued)

Praise, Love, and Gratitude: Part 2

October 20, 2011 Posted by | Love, Praise | , , , , , , | 1 Comment