Tag Archives: Gospel

We Are Not to Worry. But What Does That Mean?

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God is in control.    God is my co-pilot.   God is the navigator.   Not my will, but Your will be done.

I was reflecting on the Gospel reading from this last weekend:   Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 24-34.

I won’t quote it all here, but among the text are a couple key quotes:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

The Bible is an amazing thing, because it is all true and authoritative, but at the same time it is quite easy to take things out of context and in isolation.    The Bible has counterbalancing messages throughout.   One of the classic examples is the admonitions to feed the poor, and then Paul’s statement that says that if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t deserve to eat.   It is easy to pick one side and dig your heels in and apply that to everything, when in fact Jesus is talking about the less fortunate poor who either can’t work or would likely desire to earn a wage if offered, whereas Paul is focused on a community of able-bodied people who all need to do their part.

After Mass this last weekend a friend of mine, who knows I scrutinize finances and try to make sound financial decisions and plan for the future (and he is the same way), smirked a bit when asking me “how’d you like today’s Gospel?”    I could tell he was tweaking me a bit, and we engaged in it.   He was conflating “planning” with “worry”.   I disagreed with him, and I think by the end of our talk he was agreeing with me.

I think to read Jesus’ words here as some instruction to forego any and all planning is not only incorrect, but it’s actually counter to what He’s trying to get people to do here, which is to not worry, as in don’t be anxious.

My friend, as we talked, had the personal revelation that his planning is his way of actually not being anxious.    I agree with that.   Perhaps more important, good planning will help your loved ones not have to worry as much.   If I didn’t plan for the future, and didn’t have my affairs in order, it would cause grave headaches for my loved ones if something happened to me.   Stress, anxiety, and probably a bit of exasperation and anger would follow.

I always remember a personal example from our Homeschool group.   My wife was getting frustrated because they would schedule events and then they wouldn’t plan them.    The leader of the group at one point remarked about how they didn’t need to because the Holy Spirit just made it all come together at the end and somehow, some way, the events turned out fine.    While maybe this was true in its literalness, my wife’s observation was that she and a couple other moms always did 90% of the work because they would have been utterly embarrassed had everyone showed up to nothing.     So these three moms ended up feeling like they had to continue taking on this burden while the others extolled the wonder of the Holy Spirit bringing it all together.    There was finally a push for some structure and reorganization in the group that led to some rifts, unfortunately.   I guess my point is, if you think you’re living the gospel by not worrying, but your lack of attention in the name of not worrying leads to the anxiety of others, then you are not properly disposed to what you’re being called to do – in my opinion.

We Christians have struggled with this balance forever.  We are in constant conflict with the opposing ideas of the necessity of what we do versus what that means about our trust in God.    One can actually take this all the way back to the heart of arguments about predestination.

Here’s how I see it:   You should plan for the future and plan for contingencies.   We should do what we feel we need to do in prudent and responsible ways.   This is not lacking trust in God.   In fact, God is likely calling us to do some of these things.    But planning and taking action should ease your mind, and not burden it.    If you are not able to do everything you would like to do, but you are doing what you can, then you need at that point to not worry and trust in God.    If you are moving past prudence and trying to outsmart God by being ready for everything imaginable under the sun by relying only on your own wisdom, then you are trusting in yourself and not in God.   If you’ve planned for X and the unexpected Y happens, you need to trust that God will help see you through – or that this suffering has a greater purpose.   If you are obsessed with perfection, you need to relax and trust in God.

This covers a lot of areas, from finances, to married life, to health, to raising kids, and so on.   One should try to make good health choices.   That may mean you’ve decided to eat in a certain way, avoiding some foods not because they bother you physically but because you’re trying to stay healthy.  But at the same time if you are traveling or visiting and the food choice is not to your general health standards, and you become obsessed with the idea that eating that burger patty is going to take 2 years off your life, then you are not in balance.   That’s worry and anxiety and something of a lack of trust.

If you feel like a store of food and water is a good idea and you take some measures and you sleep well then that’s a good thing.    If you wake up every morning wondering what you haven’t done in the event that X, Y, or Z happens and you are never comfortable with what you’ve set aside or stockpiled, then you are out of balance.

My wife and I actually were talking on Saturday about the responsibility of raising kids.   The discussion turned to her concerns about them becoming godly persons, their salvation, and everything we may not be doing to make that happen.    I was agreeing that we need to do everything we can, but we’re humans and we will fall short and at some point we need to simply ask God to fill in for our deficiencies, and that He is not going to abandon them to the wolves just because we forgot to do this thing or that thing in the overall formation of their faith.    It was almost as if that Gospel reading on Sunday was for us.

So, you see, I may be a planner, but I’m really not a worrier.   My wife is.   I’m not speaking out of turn here – she’d say the same thing.   In fact, she may well say that I don’t worry enough, and I say she worries too much.   We’re both probably right.

If you do absolutely nothing, then that certainly can be trust in God.   But you should also assess whether or not it’s just simple laziness, and whether your lack of concern is affected others.   It could be argued at times that I am lazy.

Finally, I offer my preferred analogy of our participation in life with God.    It’s fine to recognize that “God is in control” as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to eschew your obligations.   I’m not the biggest fan of that phrase, not because I think it’s false, but I think it’s a bit misapplied to our purpose.   God is ultimately responsible for everything we are – He created us, has granted us our very life, has given us our abilities, and has single-handedly opened the doors of heaven to us.    He has all the power in the Universe to control every aspect of our lives.   But that doesn’t mean he exercises that power over all of our thoughts, words, and actions.   He doesn’t.   It doesn’t mean he moves us like pawns on a chess board, maneuvering us through every situation, while at the same time maneuvering those around us.    He may well intervene on occasion because He loves us, but the very fact that some of us end up sick or injured, or dead, is self-evidence that God allows things both in and out of our control to occur that bring with them certain undesirable outcomes.   I acknowledge that God is ultimately in control to the extent He desires it, and that he has the power of full control to the extent He exercises it.    He is also a navigator, but not necessarily “the” Navigator at all times, since we have a say in the direction we go.

The co-pilot analogy is also lacking a bit, since it sort of relegates God to a secondary back-up position in our lives.   I know that “co” can mean partnership and equality, but that’s usually not how co-pilots are referenced.   There is a pilot and a co-pilot.    It may be a better analogy to say I am God’s co-pilot.

I prefer the Navigator analogy, but with a twist.    If you imagine a ship with two rudders, one large rudder for large-scale directional movements and one rudder that allows quick reactionary movements along the broader path, I see God as the Navigator of the big rudder and we are navigators along the path we’re on.    I think God moves us directionally where we are to go.   I think we need to trust and not be anxious about that direction.    But that doesn’t mean all is clear sailing in a straight line.   We may need to navigate some rough waters or around islands or icebergs and what-not as we follow our path.   We can still crash on the path God sends us if we aren’t doing what we are supposed to be doing.   We have responsibilities to uphold to ensure that we get where we are intended to go.    And even that smaller rudder can ultimately change our direction if we continually push it in opposition to the big rudder.    God makes it difficult for us to move off the direction He has chosen for us, but not impossible.

So, don’t worry about planning.

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A Reprise Post of “The Game”

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A few posts ago, I presented “The Game” on youtube. I’m revisiting it with this post to provide the lyrics and some commentary on the song.

https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/the-game-now-on-youtube/

This will be the last post revisiting music. From now on, any future music posts will include the lyrics and commentary along with the youtube video.

I hope you guys don’t mind me taking some time away from other issues to revisit the music. It’s part of my identity, including my Catholic identity. I will certainly get back to other topics as well, but wanted to take some time here to give the music a favorable hearing.

Lyrics here:
The Game
Don’t know what the game is
But everybody seems to want to play
And everybody wants to win
Don’t think I’m a-gonna get in

Seems so intriguing
Look at all the smiles on their faces
And hear the laughter in the air
Why don’t I wanna go there?
Seems harmless to people everywhere

Take a step back and look a little closer
To those in the game who play it to the end
They all seem so alone
With a heart that’s made of stone

Seems to me it’s a fun game right at the start
‘Til it takes your heart
And you’ve forgotten all the rules
That’s why it’s a game for fools
There’s no chance to win – you only lose

It’s such a simple game to play, that’s what I’ve found
And I’ve had my share of ups and I’ve had my share of downs
But Jesus He just picked me up from off the ground
Now that I’m on my feet I kind of plan to stick around
Plan to stick around
Quit the game cold turkey an’ I’m back on my feet an’ I plan to stick around

It’s hard to tell those playing
That everything isn’t really what it seems
Because everything is so good now
And the journey’s really got them “wowed!”

But the only real game to play
Is the one that makes the journey rough from time to time
But the end of the game is so divine

Sometimes the players make you feel like you don’t belong
And I’ve had my share of rights and I’ve had my share of wrongs
But Jesus shook me up when I was weak and made me strong
Now that I’ve come this far I kinda plan to stick around
Plan to stick around

So go ahead and roll the dice and draw your cards and take your chance
But you won’t win anything
Not a lousy little thing

But the game I play isn’t really a game
‘Cause you don’t really play
You just kind of act it out
Once you know what it’s all about

Sometimes the players make you feel like you don’t belong
And I’ve had my share of rights and I’ve had my share of wrongs
But Jesus shook me up when I was weak and made me strong
Now that I’ve come this far I kinda plan to stick around

This song was admittedly written as a “music first” composition. But as the lyrics evolved, the music did not lend itself to what I would call “serious, poetic lyrical content.” However, at the heart of the subject matter is a tone of seriousness. “The Game” is a general allusion to a life of sin, or a, life without God. “Freed” from the restrictions that come with a belief in God, an anything goes mentality can seem appealing for a while. For some, it may even be a life-long series of actions, seemingly without consequences. As Christians, we all know that we are tempted to sin. Depending on each of our weaknesses, it is not easy for us. We also know, however, that the claims of freedom and liberation that comes with tossing off the “yoke of God” is an illusion. A life in sin is actually a life in slavery to sin. And most people will suffer consequences of this within their lifetimes. Others, absent repentance, will suffer the consequences after their physical life on earth.

Those of us playing the “real game” – which isn’t a game at all, but a lifelong journey – know that it isn’t all fun and games, but at a much deeper level it is rewarding, joyful, and infinitely more meaningful.

Jesus picks us all up from time to time. Every time we go to confession, we admit that we have fallen, and it is Jesus’ forgiveness that gets us back on our feet and strenghtens us. We resolve to stay out of the game and “stick around” in the journey. Most of us will fall more times than we should. The journey’s rough, but the end of that journey is divine if we do manage to stick around.

Revisiting “Quiet Time”

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Oh, the joy of vacation!    I have been off enjoying the weather lately.   It was a somewhat spur-of-the-moment vacation that became feasible when a couple of projects at work all came together and nothing new of immediate urgency reared its ugly head.   I am just now getting back into the swing of things here, and so I offer the following post with all humility.  And a tan…

 

Continuing to revisit songs I posted quite some time ago so that I can provide more falvor and background, I re-present the song “Quiet Time.”   Link here:

https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/quiet-time/

Lyrics here:
Quiet Time
It’s been a long hard day at work
The kids are tired and the house is still a mess
Have some bills piled up
And a stack of papers that I still haven’t read
I seem so far behind

Need to take both cars in for an oil change
And I’m almost out of gas
Got a list of things to do that’s three pages long
And it keeps on growing at a rate that’s much too fast
Tryin’ not to lose my mind

And all I want
Is a little quiet time with You
So I can clear my head
All I need
Is a little quiet time with You
So I can draw upon Your strength
And I can make it through the day

The best time spent is time with You
So You can me work things through
And I can cope with all that life’s about

Just a little while
And I begin to smile
I know You feel my trials
And remove my doubts

So I get back to my life
And I understand that circumstances
Haven’t changed
But a burden’s been removed
And I’ve given it to You
And the feeling’s not the same
I feel like I’m renewed – again

And all I did
Was have some quiet time with You
So could clear my head
All I needed was some quiet time with You
So I could draw upon Your strength
And I could make it through the day

This is probably the mellowest and most contemplative song on the CD. As you read the lyrics, you will notice that the issues of angst are not large things. Need gas… need to catch up on reading… house is a mess… These are the things in our daily lives that tend to pile up. Not one of them is an insurmountable task, but when you start to realize the totality of what needs to be done, you can get overwhelmed if you let it. All these things can squeeze out of your life other things. Good things. Necessary things. First and foremost, they can squeeze out prayere if you let them.

We all need to “recharge our batteries.” But how do we do that? Do we turn to God for recharging, or do we turn somewhere else? We cannot separate the physical from the spiritual. We are beings of both realms. Add into that our emotional needs and we are complex creatures. But we are ultimately meant for God.

Quiet Time was written to serve as a reminder to myself (and hopefully others) that when we are stressed out about things, the exact response we need is not to push God aside, but to take some time to give Him our burdens – even the small, daily ones – and allow Him to provide for us the energy to move forward. We will not only forge our relationship with God in doing so, but will in the end be more productive.

As the song says, all those things still remain after we’ve spent time with God. But it is important to “reset” and get our heads and hearts right.

I hope you take a few minutes to click on the link, listen to the song, and enjoy.

Hope you all had a blessed Independence Day (at least those in the U.S.)!

Revisiting “I Dream of Heaven”

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m revisiting a song I posted quite some time ago so that I can provide a bit more flavor to it. I will continue to do this, and also get additional songs up to finally complete this little project. Link here:

https://catholicdiatribes.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/i-dream-of-heaven/

Lyrics here:
When I Dream of Heaven
When I dream of Heaven
I dream about peace and tranquility
The way that we wish our lives could be

When I dream of Heaven
I dream about life everlasting
Livin’ in Your proximity

Don’t dream of my house or my stereo
Don’t dream of the years that passed me by
Don’t dream about Tvs or PCs or diamonds or rubies or pearls
Or anything else that money can buy

‘Cause when I dream of Heaven
I dream about all that You promised
Yeah, that would be in store for me

When I dream of Heaven
I dream about praising my Savior
What a glorious sight to see!

Don’t dream about cars or my bank account
Don’t dream about pain, or reasons to cry
Don’t dream of my job or my boat or my watch or my lawn or vacation
Or anything else that I worry about in this life

Well I don’t know if angels have wings
I don’t know if they hang in the clouds
And I don’t know if harps are the thing
But I know that I wanna find out

When I dream of Heaven (repeat to end)

The way I write most of my songs is “music first.” If I come up with something I like musically, then I will listen to it over and over to develop a melody, and at some point a general theme emerges. At that point, then, lyrics get written around the theme.

In this case, “I Dream of Heaven” just kept jumping out at me as the opening line, and so I went with it. As I wrote the lyrics, I basically meant to convey the fact that all the things in this life that we attach ourselves to as a kind of pseudo-heavenly thing is not at all what I look forward to when I think of heaven. Love watching TV? Yeah, I do like it. But I couldn’t imagine heaven [i]with[/i] a TV. I can’t imagine concerns about money in heaven. Or jewels. Or just about anything that we attach ourselves to here.

So, basically that’s the theme, and I hope I pulled it off in a somewhat fun and listenable way.