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Pray for your Enemies?

Praying for one’s enemy is a spiritual exercise and altruistic value that is taught within Christianity. It is also something that is unnatural, and this might explain why loving, forgiving, and being kind to those who hurt us is heavily emphasized in the bible. The idea of praying for our enemies seems to be a strange thing to do, probably because it IS a strange thing to do.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5: 44-45

O.K…. Jesus has made it clear, pray for our enemies. But I’m concerned about what some people think is involved in praying for those who cause us harm.

Praying for those who continue to harm us is involves:

-Praying they will change their harmful behaviour

-Praying that they will be transformed for the better

-Praying that they see the error of their ways and the harm they have caused others

-Praying the person(s) involved in an offense make amends with those they have hurt (only if it is safe for the victims)

-Pray for the person to develop a Christ-like heart

-Praying for wisdom and guidance about how to deal with the person

-Praying for courage to protect and stand up for ourselves

Praying for our enemies doesn’t involve:

-Praying that others die or are harmed. This is called revenge; we are not called to be spiteful.

-Praying ill-will on their family

-Praying to God by asking him to do horrible things to others

-Ignoring the wrongs that a person has done

-Praying for a quick recovery so the person can rapidly return to the same destructive behaviour they engaged in before becoming sick

-Forcing others to pray for YOUR enemy. Prayer is heart-filled, intimate communication with God, it needs to be voluntary.

-Thinking that because we as Christians believe in praying for our enemies, it means that others are bad people if they don’t pray as well.

Prayer helps us remain focused. When we are emotionally driven, our thoughts are all over the place; we begin to lose control and are no longer thinking rationally. Nothing makes an enemy happier than seeing the people they are harming fall apart.

Engaging in the spiritual discipline of prayer also helps to prevent self destructive responses to the harm inflicted upon us. Praying before we act gives us time to slow down, identify what we are experiencing and feeling, and make smarter decisions. Praying for our enemies is as much a benefit for ourselves as it is for others.

Social MEdia overwhelm

2020 has proven to be an overwhelming year. So much is happening, much of it out of our control. I decided to spend the weekend focusing on the things I could control. I was feeling frustrated with wearing masks that left me feeling like someone had a pillow over my face all day, and the continuous limitations placed on us by pandemic bylaws and provincial regulations. There was nothing I could do about this, but what I could control was the amount of time I spent on social media.

I asked myself what activities I could engage in that didn’t include social media; there were plenty.

I know a number of people say that social media is necessary during this time due to restricted in person contact. That might sound reasonable on the surface, but limiting social media isn’t about removing yourself from necessary online contact like work and school, virtual family visits, and keeping in touch with friends.

Limiting social media or taking social media breaks are about not taking in too much distressing news, and about not relying on social media to keep us distracted. I didn’t enjoy scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing endless posts about people being shot, murdered, and killed; corrupt politicians, arguments about wearing masks, and conspiracy theories that made me question the intelligence of people I have known for years.  When you are constantly bombarded by distressing news and information you eventually tune out and when that happens you risk not caring about things that matter in this world. You become desensitized to corruption, brutality, and injustice.


Something else that I’ve noticed during this pandemic is the level of envy and jealousy being expressed in comment sections. It’s alright for Jane and John Doe to have a good time during this season of upheaval. If they are the lucky ones who have been able to keep their jobs and maintain the same lifestyle pre-pandemic, let them enjoy themselves. Things may be rough for you right now, but trust and have faith that with time things will change. The job market and economy won’t always be bad.  

Stay focused on being thankful for what you do have; sometimes it’s hard to feel thankful when you are struggling and need assistance; but an angry, bitter, and jealous heart makes difficult times even worse.

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,…”  Galatians 6: 3-4

Who you are as a child of God has nothing to do with your job status, bank account balance, or social status. Excess social media during troubling times does not build you up, instead it can easily bring you down; this is why finding things to do off line is so important during times like this.

I’m sharing with you a list from the website Cultivate What Matters. It has some great and simple ideas about what you can do instead of spending too much time online.

46 Productive Things to Do Instead of Scrolling Social Media (2018)

and

Websites Other Than Social Media to Upgrade Your Life

Sheepwalking Through Your Life

“I define sheepwalking as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain – dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line. You’ve probably encountered someone who is sheepwalking. “ Seth Godin, in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

I think Seth Godin is correct, I bet we all know or have met someone who works obediently in a brain – dead, and possibly dead- end job. The reasons for people remaining in those jobs are varied. For some it is fear, for others, they simply don’t care, the job provides a pay cheque and that’s all that matters to them. For others, they stay in these positions because the right opportunity to leave or move into another position hasn’t happened yet.

A manager at my last job was a shepherd to sheepwalkers, let’s just say her and I did not jell well. Until she was hired I had a position that allowed me a lot of autonomy and flexibility. This position freed me to help low-income people by filling in some much-needed gaps in the service this organization provided. The newly hired manager had no experience in the industry yet began making sweeping changes as soon as she was hired. Amidst all these abrupt and ill-fitting changes, she awarded the sheeps who followed along without question and punished those who dared to ask questions.

During my time working with this manager I realized she made no efforts to include staff in the plans she had for her department; workers never knew when a sudden change in policy or operations would occur. Sometimes she even made up changes on the spot. Feedback, thoughts, and observations were not welcomed to be shared in team meetings; this was seen by her to be insubordination.

During my time working within this manager’s department I observed a very important lesson: if you are passionate about the work that you do, you will never be content with being a sheepwalker.

People who have a passion for their work, or those who are creative, resourceful, and vision oriented will eventually feel suppressed, unsupported, and unmotivated. Staff need a certain amount of freedom and flexibility in order to remain creatively productive.

Sheepwalkers don’t put their heart into the work they do, instead they focus on what it takes to please their superior. This type of work doesn’t even consider pleasing customers as their goal or providing patrons with a decent product; their only purpose is to make their supervisors happy.

I understand that not everyone can speak up or leave their positions, but I challenge people who are in these situations to think about what other areas of their lives have them sheepwalking or sleepwalking.

What are your interests? Are you able to freely feed this interest? This doesn’t have to be something major, it can be as simple as being free to choose what restaurant you and your friends/family are going to eat at, what movie you’re going to watch, being able to decide if you are going to stay home or go out, volunteering in positions that genuinely interests you, or maybe becoming a board member and providing your knowledge and skills to a non-profit organization.

What’s important to remember is that if you are in a work position where you spend 40 hours a week being a ‘sheepwalker’ you are going to need an outlet outside of your workplace where you can use your mind and feed your imaginative and creative self somehow; if not, there will be an important part of yourself that is not being fed. If you are not practicing this type of self care, you leave yourself vulnerable to burnout.

Check in with yourself periodically and ask yourself, are there other areas in my life where I am able to be creative or contribute my thoughts and ideas?

 

 

 

Preparing for Lent 2018

Lent image.jpg

This year Lent begins on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018. If feels like Christmas just barely ended and now we are on to the second half of the wonderful story of God’s love for us all.

There is a misconception that Lent is only for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, however, I am pleased to inform everyone that Lent is celebrated and observed by believers from a variety of denominations.

Every year I make it clear to people that Lent is not about punishing yourself or making yourself miserable for 40 days. Lent is about joining Jesus in the desert to grow closer to God. Lent is an active way to remember that we are dependent on God for our spiritual strength and that despite having an abundance of material goods, nothing can satisfy our souls except God.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” Luke 4: 1-4

Jesus was never alone during those 40 days, the spirit of God was with him. When we struggle it may feel as if God is absent, and the lies we tell ourselves may lead to the belief that God has abandoned us, but that is not the nature of our Lord, he is with us always. The feeling of absence is called emotional and spiritual pain.

God doesn’t test us and we are told not to test him (Luke 4:7). “Testing” others is a form of manipulation and this type of behaviour has no place in a relationship, especially the one we have with God.

In the desert Jesus shows us how to respond to temptations and anything that enters our lives that threatens to remove God from being the most important in our lives; he shows us to respond with truth and the word of God.

For Lent 2018 I will be reading Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, by Trish Harrison Warren. I chose this book because I wanted to learn to be present to the presence of God in my daily, ordinary activities and interactions. And, if you’re wondering what I’m “giving up” for Lent, the answer is nothing. I decided that the words and obsession with “giving up” can easily lead us to focus too much on accomplishing a habitual goal instead of the spiritual experience of gaining a deeper relationship with God. During Lent I will intentionally engage in prayer walks. Walking is something I find deeply meditative and calming. I haven’t been walking much lately and I can see how it has affected my spiritual disciplines and prayer life. Winters in northern Canada can be brutal, and this year we’ve had a lot of snow, and this has been my reason for not doing much walking.

For those 40 days I will be doing daily prayer walks. What I’ve “given up” is idle time that is often spent on Netflix, going to the fridge or cupboard for snacks, Facebooking, or other activities that aren’t adding much to my life. The idea of Lent isn’t to give up things that are sinful or unhealthy for you (these things are best given up forever, not for a mere 40 days). The goal is to engage in increased prayer, reflection, and charitable giving or works.

However you chose to celebrate the love and redemption that God gives us, my hope is that it will bring you closer to him and provide a deeper understanding of the power and strength provided to us by his Holy Spirit.