If the moral standards of our society today are not what they ought to be, perhaps it is because we have neglected faith. We have chosen to follow our own assessment, our own reasoning, chosen at times to follow even what is not right reasoning. We have ignored God's call for us to rise up by faith and try to live on the exalted plane of Christ-like conduct.
Perhaps this indicates that we are egocentric and selfish. We resist humility. We refuse to be willing to be taught. We have grown fat on attitude. We want everything on our level, where we can understand it all, and rule all, and control all. In reality, we will never understand that we fall short of the glory of God until by faith we see to what exalted plane of living and loving we have been called by Christ to live.
For example: We are taught that God loves us with an unchanging, unconditional, faithful love. If I accept this only by my own reasoning power, I will probably tend at times to doubt God's love for me, perhaps at times when my own cross of suffering is heavy or my sins weigh heavily upon me. But if by faith I choose to believe in God's unchanging love, this is much more fulfilling, satisfying, enduring.
It is good to remind ourselves that it has always been necessary for people to walk by faith, live by divine standards, love like Christ. Ephesians 3:17b-18 - I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love.
As a reality check, lent is a season to remember the facts. There is the fact that I am made from love and from dust, and to love and to dust shall I return. This first fact is recalled by literally imprinting dust on the forehead on Ash Wednesday in the form of a cross. Made from the burn palms of last year's Palm Sunday, the blessed ashes are worn all that day, until washed away with the day's grime. With the ashes the celebration of Mardi Gras falls silent.
Lent is not about giving up. It is about searching. It is about repairing. It is about washing. It is about weeping. It is about finding.
Ash Wednesday, developed as a day of penitence to mark the beginning of lent, is a particular time for new beginnings in the faith, a time of returning to the Lord. On Ash Wednesday we recall our mortality and wait upon the Lord for a renewing Spirit. This is a time for putting aside the sins and failures of the past in the light of who we are yet to become by the grace of God. Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter - we confront our own mortality and confess our sins before God.
Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who repent. Create and make in us new and honest hearts, that we may obtain the healing power of your forgiveness. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Tucked away in our whimsical minds is a tranquil vision in which we see ourselves on a long flight that spans an entire continent. We're traveling by magic carpet and, from the sky, we take in the passing scenes of children waving, of sheep grazing in distant pastures, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of rivers and valleys, of city skylines and church steeples.
But uppermost in our minds is our final destination, for at a certain hour and on a given day, our magic carpet ride will finally land with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. Restlessly we count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting to land.
"Yes, when we land, that will be it!" we tell ourselves. "When we're twenty-one... when I get that new job... when I get that new car... when I get married... when I retire. From that day on we will live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no magic carpet in this life, no one earthly place to land once and for all. The flight is the joy. The magic carpet ride is an illusion—it constantly outdistances us. Yesterday's a memory, tomorrow's a dream. Yesterday belongs to history, tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday's a fading sunset, tomorrow's a faint sunrise. Only today is there flight enough to love and live.
"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24, "This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."
So stop counting the miles and wondering when you will land. Instead, swim more rivers, climb more mountains, give more hugs, count more stars. Laugh more and cry less. Fly more kites. Go barefoot. Eat pizza for breakfast. Life must be lived in the flight of the now.
Whether or not you would term your relationship as happy, distressed, or just too much work, these suggestions from professionals counselors can help.
Pay closer attention to a loved one to genuinely understand his or her desires. Act on that knowledge. Happy couples are active participants in their quest for lasting love.
Realize that love will survive a disagreement and be as sweet as before. Don't withdraw, but let your love override the negative feelings of the moment. We need our partner to be a safe haven and also a true listening ear to our heartfelt concerns.
Don't try to make the relationship a cure-all. It can't cure old wound and is not a solution to personal problems. We must take responsibility for feelings of self-worth and self-love.
Accept your partner. Don't try to remake someone. Happy couples understand that love means accepting flaws and all. Each of us wants to be accepted for what we are.
Say what you want. Your partner is not a mind reader. When your partner responds to that request that is a genuine indication of love.
Remember that good relationships are always changing. Believe that yours is strong enough, and the trust great enough, to allow each other room to grow.
Be faithful. Infidelity poisons love and can permanently damage the bond between you. Dishonesty and neglect will kill love. Love needs honest, sincere attention.
Don't blame. And don't make your partner responsible for your own happiness. It's easier to blame your partner for your distress that it is to seek out the cause and eliminate it.
Be unselfish. Giving shows love—and it's contagious. It encourages reciprocity. No one, however, should give unendingly to a person who takes advantage of loving intentions and gives nothing in return.
Love forgives. Either we forgive, or we slowly accumulate resentment. Don't shelve the hurt or explain it away. Forgiving releases anger and hurt. In relationships there is no simple cause and effect, no straight lines, only circles that partners create together.
"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with malice, and be kind to one another..." (see Ephesians 4:29-32).
As people of faith participating in political discussions, we are called to a higher standard of engagement and interactions with our neighbors—even and perhaps especially with whom we may not see eye to eye. The example given to us by Jesus Christ provides us with the love we need to take the conversation to a different level. We can choose respect and discernment over animosity and bitterness. We can choose to listen and learn rather than attack and insult. We can choose to have peaceful discussions in the civic arena.
We do not have to avoid the hard issues. We can prepare ourselves for a better conversation by thinking about some of the following ideas to shape your conversation on difficult and emotion-filled issues of the day.
Show respect. Rather than trying to "win" the conversation, judge your success by how well you demonstrate respect for other people and for the perspectives they bring to the table. Avoid insults and personal attacks, and keep trying to return to the substance of the issue. Look for and lift up points of agreement as well as disagreement. The more respect you show for someone else's opinions, the more reason they have to respect yours.
Seek understanding. Try to understand the framework from which other people are speaking. What is their background? What is their story? Ask yourself why they see thing the way they do. Focus on what the other person is saying, rather than focusing on what you are going to say next. Ask open-ended questions that invite others to say more about why they believe what they believe.
Keep your cool. Talking about political issues often taps into strong emotions and passions in all of us. Remember to follow the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"—even when you disagree with them. Pray for God's grace to listen attentively, to speak clearly and to remain open to the vision God holds for all of us.
To the question, "Do you pray every night?" a little boy replied, "No, some nights I don't need anything." This attitude is not limited to children; adults have it, too. Of all the things Christians need, a regular prayer life must be at the top of the list.
A Christian is shaped from constant contact with God. There is no other process. A follower of Christ, therefore, who does not make prayer the love of his/her life will be hindered in their spiritual progress. The perfect example of the importance of prayer in a person's life is found in the life of Jesus Christ. He was a man of prayer. He prayed, for example, at many great events and for many different things in his life:
His baptism (Lk. 3:21)
In choosing the twelve (Lk. 6:12-13)
At his transfiguration (Lk. 9:28-29)
For the unity of all believers (Jn. 17:20-26)
About sacrifice and service (Jn. 12:23-28)
About the cross (death) (Mt. 26:36-39)
Every goal that is worthwhile in our lives; every effort that is worthwhile in the life and work of the church; every good cause that is worthwhile in the world should be prayed about. Many people find it hard to find time to pray in our modern, rushing-here-and-there society. During Jesus' ministry he was very busy. He was popular and the crowds swirled about him. He had very little time for himself. Yet he still made time to pray. He sometimes prayed alone in secret (Mk. 1:35; Lk. 5:15-16) and for long periods of time (Lk 6:12). On one occasion the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Lk. 11:1ff). The Lord honored their request. Throughout the New Testament we find ample proof that the disciples not only learned how to pray, they also practiced a life of prayer.
They devoted themselves...to prayer (Acts 2:42)
Give yourselves to fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7:5)
Be clear minded...so that you can pray (1 Pet. 4:7)
Pray for each other (James 5:16)
When we pray, God is always listening; always ready to answer our request according to his perfect will. If we seek to follow the example of the early church and the Scriptures, we will live a life of prayer. In Jesus' name. Amen.