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.

Burn the Shields with Fire

There are wars raging in every corner of our planet at this moment.

War has been a part of human existence from the very beginning. And in places where conflicts are raging now, people know from their own grim experience that war is a very hellish thing that should be avoided at all cost.

Here in the US, we’ve been involved in hundreds of wars but have not had the fighting come to our shores since Pearl Harbor.

And before that, one must go all the way back to the War of 1812 to find a time when a foreign adversary attacked us right here, where we live.

And so the thought of wars may not evoke much of a response from many Americans.

But those who have lived through–or are living through wars right now–know full well what a horrible, suffocating, life-stealing tragedy war is.

From a Faith perspective, Peace and Peace-making must be our goal.

The Psalmist hoped–as have countless men and women of faith–that The Divine One will, one day, put an end to war and the instruments of war.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the Lord, *
what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.

11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 47: 9-11

Does this hope in the heart of Humanity that God will one day put an end to war mean that we should simply wait patiently for that coveted day to arrive?

Does it mean that we should not work for Peace nor attempt to be instruments of reconciliation among our fellows and even among Nations?

It cannot mean those things.

Peace must be our goal.

As I write this, the U.S. is closer to an actual shooting war than we have been in a long time.

One of the things that is so frustrating and disquieting is that it’s possible–even likely when one looks at the facts–that our elected leaders are foolishly spoiling for a war.

If that’s the case, those in our country who have the power to set in motion conflicts and wars are certain to get their wish.

If so, it will be yet one more time when those who, like the writer of Psalm 47, will have their desire for Peace thwarted while humanity descends, once more, into the dark and desolate hellscape of war.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

God is Among Us

This year I’ve been awash in that kind of wonderful glow that we all associate with Christmas.

The last four or five Christmases haven’t been all that joyful for me, truth be told.

This year has been very good for me and I’m very grateful to be able to say that.

It’s so true that Christmas is like any other celebration, commemoration or event. It’s different for everyone who takes part in it. And it’s different for us each time we celebrate it.

It’s a good thing and a great comfort to know that the joy and promise of Christmas is right “there” for me–for all of us–whether we’re exultant as we contemplate the joy of our existence or going through terrible trials.

The promise that God is among us, indwells and empowers us is a reality we can always count on. One that can, indeed, be an enormous comfort to us when we find ourselves sailing through stormy seas.

May the joy of Christmastime be yours today.

And every day of your life.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Kindness is All

It’s a simple idea. It’s one you see on tee shirts and Church road signs and things of that sort.

“Kindness is All”

It’s easy to dismiss such notions once the truths they contain have morphed into buzz-phrases.

And yet, we can’t jettison such an idea entirely; it still bears an unmistakable ring of truth.

Kindness matters.

It truly does.

We are living at a time when so many have discarded our shared, time-honored values of kindness and compassion and learn instead to act with indifference and selfishness. 

Don’t succumb.

Even the broader culture in which we are living–where kindness seems to be in short supply, indeed–is sending an invitation to celebrate and practice kindness today.

I’ll chime in, too.

Be kind.

Be kind when it’s easy.

Be kind when the voices urging selfishness, indifference and cruelty roar their loudest.

Kindness is All.

 

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Today is All Saints’ Day

The Feast of All Saints or All Saints’ Day falls on the 1st of November each year and is often an Autumn afterthought, truth be told.

Halloween sucks all the oxygen out of the room, so to speak, even though it’s true that its relevance, its meaning can be elusive unless seen in context as the prelude to All Saints’ Day.

The same is true of All Souls’ Day, which is the cherry on the Sundae, so to speak. In many places–in Mexico, in particular–it often goes by Day of the Dead or Dia De Los Meurtos and is quite a celebration.

I hope that this day becomes one for you to reflect on those who’ve gone before.

People of Faith. Folks in your blood family or folks whose Faith and acts of love, fidelity and compassion have inspired you and informed your own Faith journey.

Blessings to you all on the Feast of All Saints, 2019.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Do not fret

In the 37th Psalm, David wrote this:

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:1-4

When we see people doing things which are clearly wrong, even evil, we are inclined to wonder if they’ll ever be called to account for their misdeeds.

They may even be people who hold a lot of power and have a lot of support for their actions. They may hold sway over many followers and hangers-on who share their warped values.

Here the words of the Psalmist remind us that their day of reckoning will come.

This doesn’t mean that we are to be passive in the face of evil.

Quite the contrary.

But in human society–and especially in God’s Kingdom–there is an unfailing principle that when those who inflict misery on others whose well-being has been entrusted to them, the poor and disenfranchised, people on the margins of society, it doesn’t end well for them.

Not only can we trust that leaders and powerful people who inflict misery on those who cannot defend themselves will not carry the day, we know that living well, living by the values we have learned, will–in the end–mean that we will receive “the desires of our heart.”

That’s powerful encouragement when we see others who live selfishly, who live as though their own welfare and happiness matter above all else, seem to be winning at their selfish and cynical game.

Be encouraged today, know that living for others, living as Jesus plainly instructed his followers to live, will be rewarded.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

On the Feast Day of St Francis

On the Feast Day of St Francis, I will be giving some thought to the subject of this devout man and the life he lived.

I’ll be thinking a lot about why we venerate him so. Why we still hold him up as a great example these 700 years after his passing.

I’ll be thinking about his great love for all of God’s creation. The natural world and all her inhabitants.

Good things to think about at any time.

And especially today.

Blessings to all of you today, on the Feast Day of St Francis.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

The Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

Oh, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.  

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Legacy of St Francis

Note: Because tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Francis, this is a very fitting time to feature this post again. It originally appeared on March 20th.

Yes, it is St Francis of Assisi who was chosen to be front-and-center for this new ministry.

Yes, that St Francis.

There are two great urgencies that are at the heart of what the FSF is about.

The first is to make compassion the foundation for all that we do, for all our interactions with our fellows.

And the second is use to treat the Earth, our common home, with wisdom and that same compassion. And to extend this compassion to all of Earth’s inhabitants, not just to the Human species.

With these two urgent priorities in mind, Saint Francis was a most suitable choice as the icon and a wise, compassionate patron for the Fellowship.

Francis was an unfailingly wise, loving and compassionate figure in his time. His love for animals and for the Earth were noted by his contemporaries and by the leadership of the Church in the 13th Century and are the reasons that he is considered to be a special patron for animals and for the environment.

So it is very fitting to have this well-loved and venerated figure to lead the way, so to speak, for our fledgling Fellowship.

 

Brother Ben

The Fellowship of St Francis is a new and completely independent ministry and is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Widow’s Mite

This passage from Chapter 21 of Luke’s gospel was one of the Lectionary readings for October 1st.

Verse 1: He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

Luke 21:1-4

In our churches, do we shower the big givers with accolades for their contributions but ignore others who give smaller amounts but give sacrificially?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

This has been an issue for a very, very long time.

Jesus saw how this operates back in his time. It’s still going on today, of course.

Large churches–especially ones that have embraced and are spreading the prosperity gospel nonsense–will never be free of this tendency to put their large givers on a pedestal and slight or ignore members who–like the widow in this passage–give lesser amounts but are giving sacrificially.

Let’s resolve–whether corporately or simply in our individual lives–to focus on each person we know who are putting their hands to the work, and to not simply lavish praise on our fellows who are able to write the big checks.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Seventy Times Seven

Just about everyone on this planet understands how vitally important relationships are.

It’s a universal thing. It spans all cultures and has been understood since the time our species first appeared on the scene.

But it’s also true that understanding this and living it are two different things.

I was listening to two close friends this week talk about how some difficult scenarios have played out in their relationships–their family relationships, in particular–and how it’s affected them. And other family members as well.

It reminded me of some very similar times and similar issues in my own life.

And it reminded me that in our relationships–whether things are going well, or not–forgiveness is always the best way to go.

It’s not always easy; not at all.

It may not always be clear how we can even get to that place of forgiving.

But we must always try.

I am not so naive as to say that forgiveness is always possible.

But we must try. Forgiveness should be our lodestar, our goal.

And then we leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.