Confession-Blogging Was Not My Idea | Spiritual Meditations

You would think that we all have something we consider worthy of being conveyed to others.  But not me.  I had no aspirations to write, but my husband suggested it, so I took it under advisement for several days.  My passion for spiritualty was the only realm in which I felt I could generate any worthwhile thoughts.  Yet I had no topic ideas whatsoever. Because my husband’s suggestion came out of what looked like thin air, I thought perhaps God was behind it.  So I prayed something like “God, if you want me to do this, I’m going to need your help and some topic ideas”.  As I got up from that prayer, eight topics poured into my mind, so rapidly that I had to run to write them down, so as not to forget any.  As this was not the first time that God had spoken to me, I recognized His voice and knew He was endorsing the blogging project.  So here I am, a year later.

If  you did not start following my blog from the beginning, you’ve missed the story of God’s big intervention in my life – the first post listed below.  This one I did feel had to be told as it is a good example of how God is active in our world.  I hope you will find these, my first articles, interesting and/ or inspiring.

Clouds that represent God's presence with my at the airport

God’s Faithfulness Changed My life and Restored My Income by introducing Me to a Lady on an Airplane.

https://yourspiritualinspiration.com/2018/08/18/god-makes-things-happen/

 

Sunset over mountains and trees

A Glimpse Through the Thin Curtain between Life and Afterlife as Witnessed by Myself and a Friend.

https://yourspiritualinspiration.com/2018/08/23/curtain-between-life-afterlife/

 

Methaphor for the many who have entered the afterlife

Afraid of Death? Get to Know Your Unknown.  This points to the conclusion that Near Death Experiences are real with profound significance and meaning, and also provide evidence of life after death.

https://yourspiritualinspiration.com/2018/09/15/afraid-of-death-know-your-unknown/

 

Our genetics select the needy. You are born to help.

Why do You Think Low-Income Families Deserve Your Help?  Do we have a moral obligation to share the fruits of our inherited personality traits with individuals who inherited traits that don’t make money?

https://yourspiritualinspiration.com/2018/09/02/low-income-families-deserve-help/

 

 

 

 

door representing the coice of life and free will

God’s Unsung Gift to You-Free Will/ Spiritual Meditations

The agony we feel when we see loved ones or friends ruining their lives, or, at least, making bad choices, often brings us to our knees before God. At times we worry about the unknown and fear the worst. Even years of ceaseless prayer may appear to prove useless. What does this say about God? My friend, Lisa, describes just such an experience.

Separation

My family lived in a small town where everyone went to church. My mother was the church organist so we were the first family to arrive and the last family to leave on Sunday. We were a typical Midwest American family. There were 4 children in my family; 1 boy and 3 girls. My father was a farmer and my mother was a stay at home mom.

As I was starting high school, my older brother, Kevin, left to join the Navy. I expected he would do a lot of cool things and see interesting places, but I was also sad because I knew I would rarely see him. I knew the importance and power of prayer and I prayed for him often.

As the years went by, my parents seldom mentioned my brother. After I left home for college, I was busy with my own life and made fewer inquiries about how he was doing. Did he have a wife, kids etc. My mom would say “Oh you know your brother; he’s married to his job.”

The truth was that 6 or 7 years had passed and I no longer knew my brother. Every time I would drive to my parent’s house for dinner or a holiday, I would see his photos on the wall, but nothing recent. I was told he frequently traveled to different countries and my mother sometimes wasn’t clear on where he lived. I thought this was just how the military was but also thought it odd that he was in the navy for so long. There weren’t cell phones then and I was told he had no home phone to call.

I finished school, began my career, got married, had children, bought a home and never spoke to my brother. My mother’s conversations with Kevin were always repeated at holidays. I can remember the phone ringing at Christmas one year and I prayed it was him. My heart stopped for a moment at the thought of hearing his voice again. But it wasn’t him. What if he just walked in the door? That would be a glorious day for my family.

In later years, my dad told us that Kevin was working in Alaska on a new pipeline and would be out in the uninhabited free land zones. I felt my family had lost him.   The distance and lack of communication had taken its toll and I had stopped praying for him every day. The days of praying with my parents and siblings sitting around a table holding hands was becoming a very distant memory for me. I missed that and I missed my brother.

My husband and I taught 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school. As the children talked of their brothers and sisters, I would get a glimpse of Kevin again in my own life as we grew up. That ache in my heart and the hope that my brother was OK would come rushing back.

When the family gathered at my parents’ house, my sisters and I would express concern that my mother’s only comments regarding Kevin were “Haven’t heard from him in a while”.  We heard the same comment many times.

Frustrated, I asked my mother for the name of the company Kevin worked for…. or was he still in the military. She said it was a private company and gave me the name. I called the human resource department to get an office phone number or a supervisor name. The lady I spoke to was very kind to me and understood how anxious I was to speak to Kevin. She said she would look up his contact information and call me back later that afternoon. When she did, she simply stated that he was unreachable. This made no sense to me but she had no details. The ache I had was very palpable now. My prayers to hear his voice were not going to be fulfilled. I prayed that afternoon for his happiness, and his mental and physical health wondering if he still prayed or missed us.

On a busy Monday morning at my hospital. I received a page that my mother was trying to reach me. Initially she asked me to just listen. She explained that my brother had become homeless and had been addicted to heroin for the last 2 years. He had been found in a shelter, very ill, and had been sent to a hospital. That was all she knew that morning. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe that our God had forgotten about Kevin and left him this way.

I left work, went to my car and cried harder than I ever had in my life. I remembered my scripture in Deu. 31:6; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”    I prayed out loud asking God ‘why?’. How did I not know that Kevin needed help? I was so mad at myself for being so involved with my own family that I didn’t try harder to find him. I could fix all my patients at work, but not my own brother. I was also mad at God. “Lord, why did you leave him?” How could this happen to an educated man from the Midwest with a good family?

The next day I received another call from my mother letting me that Kevin had passed. I learned much more of my brother’s life after his death; not much of it good. Throughout my life, the power of pray was amazing and worked. I’d seen it many times with my church family. My only hope is that now God is holding him close so Kevin feels his addiction was not the heart and soul of his being. Addiction had taken over his life and my hopes to see him again, to hear his voice, to hug him, dissolved.

This is a scenario repeated in far too many families. But as stated in Romans 8:28, for those who are God-conscious and listening to His Spirit, some good will develop from it. In this case, Lisa was drawn to take on the organization of a large street ministry at her church, feeding hundreds of people each month.

The street ministry from Oakhurst United Methodist Church is the perfect way for me to lift up my brother by feeding the homeless. I think of him while I’m there. The faces of those being served each have a story. They may be there due to addiction, health reasons that prevent work or a financial crisis in their life. I see my brother’s face in them. When I pray with them, I feel I’m praying with my brother standing next to me.

Free Will

Due to the lack of communication with his family, it isn’t possible to know what Kevin’s relationship was with God during his adult life. The choice to take drugs, which then turned into an addiction, doesn’t mean Kevin turned his back on God. The addiction may have been a battle for him that he lost.

However, if Kevin did give up the faith of his youth, this is the option that God provides which we call Free Will. God wants us to have communion with Him by our own choice. He is not going to force anyone to value their life more, to act in a certain way, or to use their resources reasonably, even if many others pray that He will.

A thorough discussion of Free Will delves deeply into philosophy and there are many well developed as well as vague views on the subject. Below are abridgements of a few of them that may give you some insight.

The Catholic View of Free Will

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church asserts that “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will”. It goes on to say that “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” It concludes with the role that grace plays, “By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world.”

Catholic Christianity’s views on free will and grace are often contrasted with predestination in Reformed Protestant Christianity, especially after the Counter-Reformation, but in understanding differing conceptions of free will it is just as important to understand the differing conceptions of the nature of God, focusing on the idea that God can be all-powerful and all-knowing even while people continue to exercise free will.

Oriental Orthodox View of Free Will

The Oriental Orthodox church explains that the more one follows one’s conscience, the more it brings one good results, and the more one follows one’s arrogance, the more it brings one bad results. Following only one’s arrogance is sometimes likened to the dangers of falling into a pit while walking in pitch darkness, without the light of conscience to illuminate the path.

Eastern Orthodox View of Free Will

Some Eastern Orthodox Christians use the parable of a drowning man to plainly illustrate their teaching regarding free will; God from the ship throws a rope to a drowning man, pulls him up, saving him, and the man, if he wants to be saved, must hold on tightly to the rope; explaining both that salvation is a gift from God and man cannot save himself, and that man must co-work with God in the process of salvation.

The Methodist View of Free Will

Christians who were influenced by the teachings of Jacobus Arminius (such as Methodists) believe that while God is all-knowing and always knows what choices each person will make, He still gives them the ability to choose or not choose everything, regardless of whether there are any internal or external factors contributing to that choice.

The Lutheran View of Free Will

Lutherans adhere to the teaching that Humanity is free to choose and act in every regard except for the choice of salvation. Luther used Jesus’ image of “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). Like the bad tree that can only produce bad fruit, before a rebirth through faith, people are in bondage to the sinful desires of their hearts. They only want to do bad. Luther concluded that, without a spiritual rebirth, the “free choice” that all humans possess is “not free at all” because it cannot of itself free itself from its inherent bondage to sin.

The Anabaptist View of Free Will

The Anabaptist movement was characterized by the fundamental belief in the free will of man. Denominations today representing this view include Old Order Mennonites, Amish, and Conservative Mennonites.

The New Church View of Free will

As an example of one of the deeper philosophical views, Emanuel Swedenborg, upon whose writings the New Church is founded, argued that if God is love itself, people must have free will. If God is love itself, then He desires no harm to come to anyone: and so, it is impossible that he would predestine anyone to hell. On the other hand, if God is love itself, then He must love things outside of Himself; and if people do not have the freedom to choose evil, they are simply extensions of God, and He cannot love them as something outside of Himself. In addition, Swedenborg argues that if a person does not have free will to choose goodness and faith, then all of the commandments in the Bible to love God and our neighbors are worthless, since no one can choose to do them – and it is impossible that a God, who is love itself and wisdom itself, would give impossible commandments.

The Islamic View of Free Will

Disputes about free will in Islam began with the Mu’tazili vs Hanbali disputes, with the Mu’tazili arguing that humans had qadar, the capacity to do right or wrong, and thus deserved the reward or punishment they received, whereas Hanbali insisted on God’s jabr, or total power and initiative in managing all events. Schools that developed around earlier thinkers searched for ways to explain how both human qadar and divine jabr could be asserted at the same time. Ash’ari develops a “dual agency” or “acquisition” account of free will in which every human action has two distinct agents; God creates the possibility of a human action with his divine jabr, but then the human follows through and “acquires” the act, making it theirs and taking responsibility for it using their human qadar

The Hindu View of Free will

In Hinduism the Advaita (monistic) schools generally believe in a fate-based approach, and the Dvaita (dualistic) schools are proponents for the theory of free will. The Bhagavad Gita also states: “Nor does the Supreme Lord assume anyone’s sinful or pious activities (Bhagavad Gita 5.15).  From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self (Bhagavad Gita 6.26)”, indicating that God does not control anyone’s will, and that it is possible to control the mind.

The Judaic View of Free will

In Judaism, the belief in free will is closely linked with the concept of reward and punishment, based on the Torah itself: “I [God] have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore, choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). God exists outside of time, and therefore, his knowledge of the future is exactly the same as his knowledge of the past and present. Just as his knowledge of the past does not interfere with man’s free will, neither does his knowledge of the future.

Conclusion

If you so choose, there is much to ponder and study regarding free will  and you may even develop your own thought.

Relevant Scripture

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Luke 13:34 (NKJV)

One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord,
And He will repay him for his good deed. Proverbs 19:17  (NASB)

He who]is generous will be blessed,
For he gives some of his food to the poor.  Proverbs 22:9 (NASB)

And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 Berean Study Bible

References

http://www.theopedia.com/free-will

https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/Free-Will?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-Ijlg-7L4wIVC5-fCh2mMwmdEAAYAyAAEgIfyPD_BwE

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_in_theology

 

boy in sleeveless T with hand at mouth brick background

A Shocking Number of Children are Vulnerable | Spiritual Meditations

“It takes a village to raise a child”. This African proverb means that an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe environment.  My friends, Amanda and Nathan, took this to heart….then didn’t think it was enough.

Convicted by Their Faith in Jesus

My wife, Amanda, and I have been reading, learning, thinking, and praying about the great need that children have for a loving home, a stable environment, security, and support. Our hearts break when we see children enter into our “spheres of existence” who lack these things.

After getting to know a number of people, in very personal ways, who became foster parents, we found ourselves naturally reading about it. All of this noticing, learning, and reading led us directly to praying about it. Praying, “Lord, please raise up enough stable families for these children. Please call people who are willing and able to love those who need to be loved…”.

We started moving in directions that would lead us to a more direct influence on the lives of the children we know. Through our participation in youth sports leagues, Amanda’s job move to pediatrics, kids we know through the church, and mentoring at the high school, we noticed even more need. We had started to do something about it.

Yet in our reading, learning, thinking, and praying, we still felt this wasn’t enough. After doing everything we could think of to be involved and give back to the lives of the children who need it, we were finally convinced and convicted that we were called to do something more.  We then arrived at the decision to become foster parents and are nearing the end of the process of certification now.

When I talk about active discipleship, I like to think I’m talking about something I’m endeavoring to live out. I’ll be honest, there are times I preach something and it is born more out of self-examination than experience. Yet this is a time when I see a clear parallel in my life, because my wife and I both view this calling to fostering as being connected to our journey as disciples of Jesus.

Following Jesus, to us, means caring for the most vulnerable, feeding others, providing clothing for those who cannot clothe themselves, and so on. Is there a more tangible sign that we believe these things to be true, than fostering children….the children who Jesus cares for a great deal?

Active discipleship, to me, means putting the beliefs and faith I have (about who Jesus is, who Jesus loves, and what the church should believe) into action in my life at home. I don’t always get it right (just the other day I apologized to someone for not being gracious), but sometimes I hope I do. And I believe this might be one of those times.

Fostering isn’t for everyone. Heck, after we care for a few children it might not even be for us. But we all have ways in which we can be more intentional about putting our faith into action, about living out our faith while “on mission” in the world. I encourage you to examine yourself and ask how you are living your life on mission or how you might start in some area.

What would it look like to put some component of what you’ve learned and believe about Jesus into action? You might be surprised where it leads you, and you might just change a little part of the world to look more like heaven.

Pastor Nathan

Orphans – a Worldwide Crisis

This is one busy family making a difference in the lives of several vulnerable children. “It takes a village to raise a child”, so there is room for all of us to contribute and our village has become worldwide.  The IHH Humanitarian and Social Research Center produced a lengthy report in June 2018 that is overwhelming in its scope and implication.  Here are a few excerpts:

Wars, invasions, conflicts etc. are all crises which lead to an increase in the number of orphans. Currently, the crises prevailing in Eastern Turkistan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Somali, Mali, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Arakan, and Pattani leads to ever increasing numbers of orphans in these areas. Natural disasters also leave behind many orphans. The tsunami that hit South Asia, the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan, and the drought in East Africa, have all left millions of children orphans.

11 countries with most orphans

Children account for one of every three asylum seekers in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,000 unaccompanied children reached Europe.  Since the outbreak of the refugee crisis following the war in Syria, 480,000 children have crossed the border into Greece. 5,174 of these were not accompanied by any adults.  During these exhausting journeys, the children are exposed to many problems such as violence and sexual abuse, whereas the greatest danger is that posed by human traffickers. According to studies, tens of thousands of the children, who had arrived in Europe after overcoming such major obstacles, were lost.  96,465 of all the children who filed asylum applications in European countries in 2015 are now unaccounted for.

Approximately 33% of the people in question in Germany, the country hit hardest by the flow of refugees towards Europe, are children.  According to a report published in 2017, more than 350,000 children who applied for asylum in Germany are housed at unsafe locations while reviews are pending, and many may be exposed to physical, psychological and sexual violence during that uncertain period.

In the first half of 2016, approximately 26,000 children, who reached the border of the US, were found to be unaccompanied by any adults.  In the US, approximately 3 million children strive to maintain a life without parents. Each year approximately 22,000 babies in the US are abandoned in hospitals, while 2,000 to 3,000 kids are left as orphans due one of the parents killing the other. 60% of these kids are assigned to foster families as a result of exposure to domestic violence and abuse, while a further 17% are assigned to foster parents due to the death, imprisonment, disability or illness of the parents. These studies reveal that the children living under such conditions have difficulties in adapting to the society, and often face violence, abuse, and ill treatment sometimes at the hands of foster families. As with the case of any orphan, these children also have difficulties in many areas of life, such as education.

Today, 153 million orphans are registered around the globe. Yet, estimates of the actual figure range above 400 million. This is because it is impossible to get an accurate count of the children who live on the streets or who have been kidnapped or conscripted.

street traffick soldiers graph

The Magnitude of Child Abuse

A UN report published in 2014 on global child abuse states that one out of every 10 girls suffer sexual abuse.  (See also Generations of Women Endure Abuse)  The report is based on data from 190 countries, and notes that in 2012, 95,000 children and teenagers were murdered.

This is the leading reason of death of boys aged 10-19 in Latin American and Caribbean countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.

Reports produced by the UN again reveal that in 58 countries, 17% of children face severe physical punishments. Another noteworthy point raised in the report is the fact that three out of every 10 adults consider such punishment as a necessary element in raising a child.

child abuse stats

Conclusion

The numbers are overwhelming and make us feel helpless to make any improvement.  However, we are many and like the Butterfly Effect if we each make an effort to enhance the life of one child, it can result in a large difference overall.

The impact of child poverty, which is an alarming development for any country,  unfortunately, is usually permanent.  Consider the impact of many permanently damaged children, now adults, on our communities.  Like Nathan and Amanda, we can all do something to help grow healthy people.  If you are interested and unable to find a volunteer opportunity to make an impact in your community, please consider UNICEF.

Relevant Scripture:

1 John 3:18
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

2 Esdras 2:20
“Guard the rights of the widow, secure justice for the ward, give to the needy, defend the orphan, clothe the naked,

Matthew 10:42
“And if, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.”

Matthew 18:10
“Beware that you don’t look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father.

Mark 9:37
“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming my Father who sent me!”

brown and white buffalo face each other metaphor for ethnic groups, avoid prejudice, love neighbors

Who are Your Neighbors? | Spiritual Meditations

I’m sure you are aware of the relationship between lack of experience and fear.   How many times have you said to someone “I would never do that” after they have described an experience you felt was risky? But with more knowledge, encouragement or courage, you find yourself doing the very thing you previously feared.

Let’s Talk

If you haven’t tried anything new lately, I encourage you to think of something you’ve always wanted to do and go do it.  We grow as a result of new experiences and meeting new people, especially people who are different from us.  Some of my most memorable and gratifying experiences have been with people whose first language was not English.  When I was a teenager, I remember thinking that people speaking a ‘foreign’ language within my hearing were rude or saying something derogatory about me or somebody I was with, when actually they were probably talking about what they were going to make for dinner.  Wow, was I the center of my universe or what?

It’s fun to talk to strangers… certainly not scary.  Some would even say it’s healthy and improves the quality of life of those involved.  I listened to a TED talk with Kio Stark this week.  She talks about how much she loves to talk to strangers and the expression of humanity it provides to herself and those she speaks to.  I gave it a try 3 times this week and enjoyed each experience.  It was a win.Her “Why You Should Talk to Strangers”  video is only 12 minutes and watching it will lift your spirits.   (Take a look at my first blog post God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life to learn how God encouraged me to talk to strangers and how He used that conversation to change my life.)

In a Huffington Post article written by Emma Brancatisano, Jasmine Sliger, a cross-cultural counselling and organizational psychologist, said we should all be talking more.

“We don’t usually allow ourselves to be outside of our comfort zone. And [talking to a stranger] can be challenging, because we don’t know what is on the other side,” Sliger said. “It depends on your personality. Some have more of a natural sense of social engagement than others.”

“If you have a close friend who is more extroverted than you, go out with them and observe how they interact,” Sliger said. “Then, start by carrying out some social experiments. Begin talking to people or acknowledging them.”

“The best place to start is to show appreciation to those who are in your service. You’re acknowledging that they’re a human being and that you appreciate what they’ve done for you. Start there. Whether that be the guy who makes your soy latte in the morning or the friendly woman at your local deli, start simply. By doing this, you’re acknowledging that they’re a human being and that you appreciate what they’ve done for you. Start there,” Sliger said.

“I think we live in a world today where there is so much fear — whether that be of refugees or the person next to us…It even borders on paranoia. We are getting hampered more and more by messages of fear and this leads to people creating stereotypical fears. You can’t walk alone, you can’t let your children out of your sight and you need to talk to them about stranger danger. Whilst I believe you need to do these things, the message can be overplayed. And that is detrimental to the growth of a person.”

Fear – Nature and Nurture

Fear is a primal instinct.  Our very early ancestors learned that if you are approached by a stranger, it is safer to consider them an enemy and be ready to fight or flight, rather than consider them a friend and be wrong…a potentially fatal mistake.

Layered on top of the primal instinct, a person may lack confidence  They may have had a  traumatic childhood experiences.  They are likely to be influence by parents, teachers, family and friends, whose perspectives and ideas may not be helpful in developing a mentally healthy individual.  This is how prejudice gets passed from generation to generation. And this concoction of fear and prejudice is stirred and agitated by exaggerated negative TV news.

You Decide What Your Fears Are

But being afraid of strangers does not have to be a life-long condition.  Jack Schafer PhD explains “that the first step is understanding when and how the fear appeared.  The second step is to acknowledge strangers” who have helped humanity, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.  “The third, to face the fear and start interacting with strangers.”  The more experience you have with different people, the less fearful you will be of their ‘stereotype’.  And there are big differences between people within what you may consider a group or type of people.  We use the most obvious characteristic to create our stereotypical groups, while the people we put in those groups are really so different.  How similar are you to the people you know and would consider to be in your group?  You will see differences in personality and values among them.  And there are just as many personalities among every stereotypical group you can think of.

The Potential for Hate and Hate Crimes

Not all stereotypical fear of strangers (prejudice) is going to elevate to hate crimes, but we need to be aware of the potential.  How many times have families ignored or rationalized a family member’s association with haters and people using violent rhetoric?

In Psychology Today, Dr. Schafer explains “Hate masks personal insecurities.  Not all insecure people are haters, but all haters are insecure people.  Hate elevates the hater above the hated.  Haters cannot stop hating without exposing their personal insecurities.  Haters can only stop hating when they face their insecurities”.  So let’s do our best to accept and extend agape love to everyone.  I, for one, do not want to be a contributing factor in the development of  people becoming fuel for hate crime combustion.

According to the analysts with The Conversation in their June 2018 article

Hate crime totals for the 10 largest cities [in the US] rose for four straight years to the highest level in a decade.

Nationally, levels in 2014 were the lowest since national reporting began in 1992, according to the FBI. Since then, hate crimes have steadily increased. In 2016, the last year with FBI totals available, hate crimes were up 11.7 percent compared to 2014.

We see three factors behind the moderate overall increases in 2016. First, there was a precipitous spike around the election. Second, on top of sustained levels of hate crimes against African-Americans, and a small increase against Jews, were larger percentage increases against other groups. Third, hate crimes increased by double-digit percentages in several large states, including New York, California, Florida and Illinois.

Are We Good Neighbors?

God doesn’t get into the psychology and statistics of it, but His wisdom tells us to be kind to strangers:

Exodus 22:21     Do not mistreat a stranger or oppress a foreigner for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34    But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you and you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.

Hebrews 13:2    Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Luke 10:25-37    The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So who are your neighbors?  Jesus is saying everyone is your neighbor, love your neighbor as yourself, do to others as you would want others to do to you.

Our Inner Being is God and God is Love, so we can’t help but love our fellow man / strangers / brothers.  Their Inner Being also is God.  John tells us in I John 4:20 “If a man says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. for if he doesn’t love his brother, who he can see, how can he love God , who he can’t see”.

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says ‘What you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done to me”.  Joel S.Goldsmith, in his book Practicing the Presence, adds a karmic interpretation to these words.  We are all One spirit of God.  “God is the Selfhood of every individual…and the injustice that I am doing to another, I am doing to myself.  The lack of thoughtfulness that I show to another, I am showing to myself.”

Forgiveness

Unfortunately, not everyone has tapped into the their Inner Being of love.  So we must learn to pray “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do”.  and pray that their eyes will be opened to the Truth.

If there are individuals with whom we are not on harmonious terms, we find, as we turn within [pray, meditate, listen to God] and pray that brotherly love and harmony be established between us, that instead of enemies, we come into a relationship of spiritual brotherhood with them.  Our relationship with everyone then takes on a harmony and a heretofore unknown joy.

This is not possible as long as we feel antagonism toward anyone.  If we are harboring within us personal animosity, or if we are indulging in national or religious hatred, prejudice or bigotry, our prayers are worthless.  We must go to God with clean hand in order to pray, and to approach God with clean hands we must relinquish our animosities.  Within ourselves we must first pray the prayer of forgiveness for those that have offended us, since ‘they know that what they do’.

It is not only inconsistent, but hypocritical to talk about the Christ and our great love of God in one breath and in the next breath, speak disparagingly of a neighbor who is of a different race, creed, nationality, political affiliation, or economic status. One cannot be the child of God as long as he persecutes or hates anyone or anything, but only as he lives in a consciousness of no judgement or condemnation.

Joel S Goldsmith, excerpt from Practicing the Presence

Conclusion

Many of our fears are irrational.  But we can overcome our natural tendencies to fear strangers.  When it comes to people, the more contact we have with a diverse population, the fewer fears and prejudice we will have. Our lives will also be much richer and interesting for the experience.  Let’s appreciate the differences.  You may be as different to them as they are to you.  And your interaction could lead to greater acceptance and compassion for all parties involved.  Each person is God’s unique creation and we don’t need to assigned to them some made-up group.  Strike up a conversation with 3 strangers this week and let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear about it.

Although He doesn’t always give us explanations, God’s direction, as written in scripture and as written on your heart, will lead you to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.  God is clear?  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.



Our genetics select the needy. You are born to help.

Why do You Think Low-Income Families Deserve Your Help? | Spiritual Meditations

Genetics Select the Needy

You and I not only have different physical attributes, but we also have different mental attributes.  You may be a risk-taker who is great with numbers and, therefore, make a great financier. Or you may have mountains of compassion and, therefore, make a great nurse.  I may have an inquisitive mind and, therefore, should be doing research.

On the other hand, you may have an inborn negative attitude and find it difficult to be motivated by anything.  And I may have trouble noticing detail and tracking so written directions are a problem.

There are hundreds of mental and personality traits that we are born with.  And their combination make individuals who they are.  Upbringing can modify these traits for better or for worse.   And we can learn to hide, to some extent, the traits that we believe hinder us.  That is, unless we don’t have the introspective personality trait and the ability to act (a skill that requires imagination and empathy).

Child development psychologists tell us that deep and lasting shaping of neural pathways happens in the first hours, days, months, and years of life. Basic dispositions are formed that can last a lifetime. Whether you are held, spoken to, fed, made to feel safe and cared for — you have no choice in any of it, but it more or less forms your emotional skeleton. It determines how sensitive you are to threat, how open you are to new experience, your capacity to exercise empathy.

Children aren’t responsible for how they spend their formative years and the permanent imprint it makes upon them. But they’re stuck with it…..

So, then, here you are. You turn 18. You are no longer a child; you are an adult, a moral agent, responsible for who you are and what you do.

By that time, your inheritance is enormous. You’ve not only been granted a genetic makeup, an ethnicity and appearance, by accidents of nature and parentage. You’ve also had your latent genetic traits “activated” in a very specific way through a specific upbringing, in a specific environment, with a specific set of experiences.

Your basic mental and emotional wiring is in place; you have certain instincts, predilections, fears, and cravings. You have a certain amount of money, certain social connections and opportunities, a certain family lineage. You’ve had a certain amount and quality of education. You’re a certain kind of person.  The radical moral implications of luck in human life: Acknowledging the role of luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening. By David Roberts)

So I think it is fair to say that genetics select the needy.  At least, within an otherwise prosperous society.  Do we have a moral obligation to share our talents, our skills, the fruits of our inherited personality traits with those of individuals who inherited traits that aren’t as conducive to making money?

We choose out mates, not only because of common interests, but also become they have complimentary personality traits.  “You complete me”.  They may be good at something that we are not and vice versa.  Shall we be any less cooperative with other people in society?  (Try to keep your mind out of the gutter on this one.)

Corporate and Government Treatment of Low Income Individuals

I don’t mean to totally downplay nurturing but it is obvious that the individuals that are living on the streets or changing low-paying jobs on a regular bases, have not had nurturing enough to overcome their inherited traits.  And some corporations, thinking only of the bottom line, either don’t realize or don’t care how their actions effect low income families.

It has never been easy to be poor in America, but decisions made in company boardrooms about seemingly modest financial matters — about fees, fines, interest rates, minimum balances — make life far harder than it has to be for low-income families. This week, Bank of America announced its free, no-minimum-balance checking account, popular with many low-income customers, will require a $1,500 minimum daily balance or $250 in direct monthly deposit (totaling $3,000 per year). If customers fall below that threshold, they will be forced to pay a monthly fee.    (Why it Cost so much to be Poor in America – Karen Weese)

Government funding for social programs is always threatened by the chopping block.  Medicaid is making it harder for low-income and disabled individuals to get funding for basic needs.  We’re required to pay taxes to the government anyway, so why not petition for a more compassionate distribution of funds.

You were Born to be Helpful

You might argue “I didn’t get the generous or charitable trait”.  OK, that may be true, so hopefully you live with people who did.  Some psychologists would say there is one other trait you may not have gotten.  See if you agree.  The Link between humility and helpfulness.

But most of us are born with an instinct to help others.  “Some biologists believe that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others. Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive. But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help.” The theory is that is was developed during prehistoric society where cooperation was needed for survival.  There have been many studies regarding this. Once such study was reported in the New York Times by Nicholas Wade.

So there is the logical reason that (for everyone who can) there is a moral obligation to help those in need.  Fortunately, it also comes naturally to most.

Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can. (John Wesley)

Writings related to this article that are worth meditating on are found here under Helping the Needy and Being Humble