Blessings and a dark cloud

Today I find myself in one of those “happy-sad” situations.

There’s nothing unusual about that for me. I’m pretty sure that all of you can relate to that.

The things I feel good about today: it’s the first day of spring and we’re having a truly beautiful day here in Florida.

And I’m happy to note that our Fellowship turns one year old today.

Those are great blessings.

I don’t have to tell you about the sad part.

Today–like all of you–I’m living under this dark cloud and the great weight of uncertainty that comes with it.

I’m referring to the Coronavirus, as I’m sure you know.

I know this a really serious situation and we’re paying attention and following the instructions of our elected officials the medical professionals who advise them.

I’m apprehensive as we brace for very difficult and dark days.

These huge threats and those dark days do come around, of course. They’re nothing new.

Sometimes when we least expect it.

And we’ve got to use the resources we have. Our faith is one.

Our determination to go through this together is another.

As we continue to go through this unsettling trial, the words of the Psalmist found in the 46th Chapter come to mind.

Pray. Help in ways you’re able to help. Look out for those who are the most vulnerable.

And take comfort in these words:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 46: 1-7

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Coronavirus, the danger of comparisons and our task today

It’s natural that when we have a new threat–talking about the Coronavirus–that we compare it to something we already know about.

But the Coronavirus is very different from the flu that we’re all very familiar with. Different in several important ways.

This article will help greatly if you’d like to know more and see why this is a much bigger deal than, for instance, a new strain of flu.

This is a time to look out for each other.

A time to ask for help if you need it, especially if you’re in a high-risk group.

A very good time to keep one another in our prayers. And most of all, to help one another when we’re able to do so.

That was a great priority for St Francis in his day; the need was very, very great.

And that’s certainly true for us today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis

Wisdom and Critical Thinking

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Proverbs 3:13-18

In this passage the writer of Proverbs really wanted to drive home the point that acting wisely as we go through life is a good thing.

Yes, it’s a very good thing.

And who would disagree?

I love the way it’s stated so poetically here. And it’s true, very true in our day, just as it was when this pithy poem was written.

The point I want to make here is that some discernment, the ability to think critically is a very big deal, too.

I would say that’s it’s foundational, that wisdom absolutely depends on our ability to think critically, to clearly pierce through the rationalizations and half-truths and arrive at sound decisions.

As I take a look around the cultural and, especially, the political landscape these days, I don’t see a lot of wisdom.

And it’s clear to me as I look around or read the news that a lot of folks–people who hold the reins of power in particular–are sadly deficient in critical thinking skills.

Or have, perhaps, stopped using the skills they’ve got.

This is a very bad thing and bodes ill for our country.

May we all–those who make important decisions that affect the common good, especially–seek and employ the discernment and critical thinking upon which wisdom and wise decisions depend.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Remember, O Man

Remember, O Man thou art dust and
unto dust thou shalt return

from the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday

Thinking about our mortality, of how fleeting our lives truly are is not something most of us prefer to dwell on.

This tendency we have to avoid thinking about the inevitability of our own death does not serve us well.

On Ash Wednesday, we are invited to take a look at this truth, to wrap our minds around it, as the saying goes.

Our lives have little meaning if we try to make sense of them outside their proper, natural context. That is, while pretending that our deaths are not the consummation of our lives; the final chapter in our lives’ stories.

You don’t need to know exactly how that last chapter of your story will read.

Just know that the story’s entire meaning, its true significance is blunted, perhaps even unknowable if we drift through the autumns of our lives clinging to the fantasy that God’s hand will not soon take up that pen and begin to write.

.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

When the Dam Breaks

14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
    so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

Proverbs 17:14 NIV

This verse in Proverbs tells us something we all know. But it’s good to be reminded of how this works, as it’s a truth we don’t often think about.

Now, it’s also true that going to great lengths to avoid confrontations is not always a good strategy.

But it’s also true that for so many of us, we often fall off the other end of the pier, so to speak.

Too often we behave as though quarrels and full-on fights are just a part of life and they’re no big deal.

Like the writer of Proverbs, I’m not of that school of thought. Framing this in that way can definitely set us up for a lot of unnecessary conflict in our friendships, relationships and in any other sphere of life as well.

It’s a good thing if we think twice before we say or do things that could easily lead to an argument or an interpersonal “slugfest”, as it were.

Before the dam breaks.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis

Begin at the Top

No person, family, organization or Nation can thrive while discarding our long-held practices and values. While acting out our darkest, worst behavior and insisting on always getting our own way.

That doesn’t mean that people or businesses or whatever don’t behave badly and carry on their business in wanton disregard of the rights or the welfare of others. We all know that that sort of thing happens all the time.

But the behavior of some of our leaders, elected officials and their appointees these days is really over the top.

Decisions are being made and strings are being pulled to suit the whims of one man whether or not those goings-on are in anyone else’s interest, the interest of our Nation as a whole or are even legal.

This is not merely a matter of simple selfishness, of someone putting themselves first. It is to our Nation’s detriment and is most definitely affecting the way things are done. The way they are done by individuals, in the business sphere and by those whose job it is to run our corporate affairs.

The petty, self-serving behavior in Washington–combined with gross and obvious incompetence–is wreaking havoc among us.

And it won’t stop until we find our way back to sound corporate values, until we begin once more to treat others with respect and reign in those selfish and meddlesome impulses that can harm others and sully our corporate life.

And that must begin at the top.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

God and David’s Distress

It’s recorded in the 25th Psalm, that King David sent heavenward this heart-felt entreaty:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.

Psalm 25: 16-17

We often see the things we read in the Bible through the lens of the times in which they were written.

We might think, for example, that David had troubles of the heart served up with a side dish of anguish, and–if we take the time to carry the scenario out to its end–chalk it all up to some passing problem he was facing at the time.

And we may not think to take a closer look and put his prayer into a contemporary context, including what we know today about Mental Health issues.

If we put this Psalm into that context, I think we’d draw the conclusion that David suffered from depression. And–no doubt–anxiety as well.

Reading further through the Psalms reinforces that conclusion.

I think one of the reasons many Psalms resonate with me is that I have long traversed a lot of the same territory.

I think we’d all agree that keeping one’s emotional equilibrium, staying calm and serene through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs, is a very big deal.

Going through that kind of thing is quite common. You might say that King David has plenty of company among us modern folk.

And among all people of all times, all of us who’ve ever walked around in human skin.

No doubt David and people living at that time could have benefited from the insights and practices of modern medicine.

And having at their disposal modern meds that can help us keep our emotional balance and cope successfully with our “troubles of the heart” and “anguish”.

They didn’t have those helpful tools in their time, of course.

It’s such a good thing that we do.

Prayers like David’s in this passage may help when those dark clouds begin to gather around us.

Compassionate and effective care from professionals in the Mental Health field can certainly help too.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.