Tag: Religion and Spirituality

Thoughtful Solitude … A Source Of Strength!

Thoughts in Solitude

Some of my readers may have noticed I took a small break in posting to my blog. Sometimes life can take the wind out of our sales and we simply need some time to get our feet planted firmly back under ourselves. I recently found myself in such a state. That is because my mother recently passed away. This came as an unexpected, sudden shock to us all. Diagnosed with lung cancer just before Easter, she went to be with her God on Sunday, June 10th. Needless to say, my mind has just been elsewhere for the past few weeks. Solitude can sometimes be a helpful, healing thing.

While Mom will most certainly be deeply missed, the purpose of this post is not to engender sympathy or condolences. My mother was a strong woman and led an amazing life. Growing up in the small town of Ilion, NY with blue collar parents, she became a registered nurse at Albany Medical Center and then later, an excellent mathematics teacher. Quite the artist, she specialized in pastels and watercolors and was a member of the Fine Line Art Gallery for 10 years. A lover of music, she sang in choirs, and served as a choir director at several churches. Mom also sang with several choral groups and performed on concert tours in Central Europe, Turkey, at Carnegie Hall, and the White House. She traveled most of the world and much of the continental United States and Canada. She embraced life firmly standing on her own two feet and she lived her life to the fullest.

Quiet Faith

Mom was a woman quietly strong in her faith. She accepted her situation with grace, strength, and courage, and when the outcome became clear, her faith and courage made things easier for the rest of her family. How many of us wonder how well we will handle things if we find ourselves in such a situation. How do we hope to find the strength to deal with situations like this? It is seeking an answer to this question that is my motivation for writing this post. I do believe that, like my mother, I am a person of quiet but strong faith. I certainly do not attempt to push my beliefs on anyone; nor will I argue with people about their beliefs. That is what “Freedom of Religion” is truly all about … not the political manipulations we see all over the news today. I can only hope that when my time comes, I can meet it with the same grace, strength, and courage exhibited by my mother. So where does that grace, strength, and courage stem from?

Solitude and Reflection

Shortly after my mother died, my father discovered a quote my mother had saved to a folder on their computer. He shared it with my brother, my mother’s sister, and me. With the grief over my mother’s death still very new and raw, I must admit reading it brought real tears to my eyes. While it was difficult to read, at the same time, it had a very different affect on me. I suddenly understood so much more about my mother and the source of her strength and courage.

I seem to remember that my mother spent a week at some kind of retreat which I believe was held at a Trappist Monastery. It was a week spent in silence, prayer and personal reflection. Maybe this was where she found this quote … or maybe it came later from reading inspired by her experience. I am not sure. However, when I read the quote, I was struck by the simple, open honesty of the words, and the trust in a pure relationship with a loving God. I cannot help but feel that such a faith could only be beneficial to whoever kept it.

The quote is from Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane, KY.  Merton was a prolific poet and writer on spiritual social themes. He lived from 1915 until 1968.

From “Thoughts in Solitude”

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead my by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

 

Is that not a powerful statement of faith? I do not normally share such personal things on my blog, but in this case, and especially if it helps someone else find the hope, courage, or strength they need, I think my mother would approve.

Justice or Vengance

David gegen Goliath
Image via Wikipedia

This Sunday also just happened to be September 11,2011 and the 10th anniversary of the attack on the world trade center in New York City.  In church I listened to a sermon by Reverend Joe Minarik that talked about forgiveness versus vengeance.  It was a well thought out sermon and I did enjoy listening to it, and it is often very true that some people mistake revenge for justice.  We all need to find forgiveness in our hearts for those people who have offended us … or how can we expect God to forgive us? 

How does that translate to September 11, 2011 and the actions this government took to punish the perpetrators of that heinous attack?  Did the U.S. seek revenge or justice.  Does forgiveness mean there is no consequences for evil actions?  Can we forgive those who do us wrong and still expect justice?

Consequences are sometimes necessary for us to learn … and I would say it was justice that most Americans sought after 9/11.  Not revenge!  Revenge would have been the indiscriminate murder of 3000 muslim innocent men, women, and children.  That did not happen.  Though we can argue about whether what we did was the right thing, anyone of sound mind and intellect should be able to accept that it was measured, restrained, and that every attempt was made to only go after Al Qaeda associates and their supporters.  We did not Nuke the Middle East.  I think my thoughts on Iraq should be clear from earlier posts, and yes, even Obama stated that Afghanistan was the “right war to be fighting” to achieve justice for the victims of the World Trade Center bombing.

Sometimes I get the feeling that some people do not mistake vengeance for justice, but instead they mistake justice for vengeance.  “vengeance is mine … saith the Lord” is often quoted by certain Christians as an exhortation to stand by and  to do nothing when horrific acts or events are playing out.   To me, Jesus’s lesson of “turning the other cheek” is not an admonition to go meekly to the slaughter … it is the defiant act of a warrior.  It clearly says, “that slap didn’t faze me … would you like to go for the other cheek as well!”  I have never bought into the Marvin Milktoast version of Jesus Christ.  Marvin Milktoast could not have survived 40 days in the desert,  run the money-changers out of the temple, faced down Satan and demons, or endured the suffering Jesus endured during his crucifixion.  Jesus was a warrior … like David or Sampson …a warrior for God … with a keen understanding of where and when not to use force or violence.

God gave us as sense of right and wrong, a free will, and a thinking mind!  The belief that “divine intervention” is the only biblically correct means to stop the evil acts of others is simply a cop-out and an excuse to avoid personal responsibility.  I am reminded of a story about a pious man sitting on his roof as the flood waters rose about him.  A truck came by and his neighbors shouted for him to climb in;  they were headed for higher ground.  He refused their help, saying that he had faith God would rescue him.  The water kept rising.  A boat came by and the rescuers hailed the man.  Again the man refused rescue saying that he was waiting for God to come and save him.  Still the water kept rising.  A helicopter flew overhead and tried to lift the man to safety.   Again the man refused, yelling that God would save him. The water continued to rise.  Sometime later the man stood at the Pearly Gates and Peter opened them to let him in.  The pious man, his faith shaken and feeling somewhat miffed, asked Peter why in Heaven’s Name God had not come and rescued him?  Why did God let him drown?  Peter looked at the man and said, “Sorry. God was sort of busy that day.  However, he did manage to find the time to send you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter.  Why did you not jump on one of those?

While violence is and should always be the last resort, the fact is that if only evil men are willing to use violence, only evil men will win.  Here are a few quotes I like:

“An unwillingness to deal forcibly with violence does not equate to moral rectitude!”

~ Mary Malmros

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it!”

~ Pericles

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!”

~ Edmund Burke