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The Discipline of Lent: How to Be on Top of Your Game

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From: John Murtari (jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org)
Date: Fri Mar 15 2002 - 08:45:54 EST

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Good People & People of Faith,

For many people, this is the season of Lent. A time of spiritual
preparation before the celebration of Easter. A time for somber
thoughts and frank self appraisals -- a reminder to "Be on Top of Our
Game."  Many of us have so many decisions to make with regards to our
children: Do I compromise?  Do I fight?  Leave town? Keep struggling
to be a parent? Give up?  I thought I would be able to win yesterday,
but today I'm not so sure...

It's that last one we should think about as people of Faith.  These
decisions are life altering and difficult to make (since we don't have
perfect information) -- how and when do we decide?  I'd like to share
something that has left me with a life of few regrets: Make those
decisions when you feel your "On Top of Your Game."  As people with
Faith in a Living & Loving God it means make that tough decision when

* Feel that the power of God is real, that nothing is impossible.
* Know that your child's other parent is your brother or sister.
* Accept that the Judge/Lawyer/Psychologies/Social Worker are loved by
  God as much as you.  They are no more Devil or Saint than you are.
* Realize that God loves you very much and we all have a chance to begin
  again no matter what has happened.
* Love your children and know you are irreplaceable in their lives.

On those mornings when you wake up and have that "feeling."  Then decide,
and stick with your decision (and pray).
Isaiah 58: 7-10

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
   and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
   and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
   you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

If you remove from your midst oppression,
   false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
   and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
   and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

I want to share a few thoughts of my own, many of which were triggered
a few weeks ago at a church dinner.  I was talking to a Sister who
told me she didn't really enjoy the Old Testament readings very much
-- imagine that!  Perhaps because God appears as vindictive as an old
Goat and the stories, what fantasy!  Jonah living in the belly of a
whale -- really!  We're educated people now.

Maybe we miss the forest for the trees?  No one can deny those are
books of Faith.  They are books written by someone trying to describe
the experience of the Divine in their lives.  Trying to make sense of
good and evil and the randomness of life. Maybe trying to tell us all
how to 'Be on Top of Our Game.' In this season of Lent, I feel
uncomfortable at one message they send: To see the power of God, we
must act with Faith and against human reason. There is a high standard
expected of those who have (or had) Faith, to back-slide is not an
option and the physical consequences can be severe.  Adam and Eve are
thrown out of the garden... Moses is told he will never enter the
promised land... King David faces disaster after bedding Bathseba and
arranging her husband's death.

What is obvious is this continues into the New Testament.  While
Christ certainly reminds us that God is the ever loving father (and no
goat!), I have to say some of the parables make me squirm.  I still
feel uneasy at the story of the "talents".  Of the servant who was
given one -- and instead of investing it and using it, just buried it
in a field.  Even as a child, I felt sorry for the guy -- even now,
I'm not sure if I wouldn't have done the same thing. I don't like
risks.... and Christ's summary:

Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to the one with ten
talents. For unto every one that has -- more shall be given, and he
shall have abundance: but from him who has not -- shall be taken away
even the little he has. And throw this unprofitable servant into the
outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 
- the above was taken from a Web Site which had Thomas Jefferson's
commentary on the Bible,

To decide and act without Faith is disaster.  In this season of
preparation, it is something we should all think about.  Not to cry
about the past, but to better engage the future.

This message will end with another great favorite, David & Goliath.
There is more here than just how to use a sling shot!

I Samuel 17: 33-47         The Story of David and Goliath.

King Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this
Philistine (Goliath), to do battle with him, for you are only a lad,
while he is a man of battle since his youth!"

     [In his own words, Saul shows he is unfit to be King of
     Israel. The man who has had close experience with the power of
     God, still does not understand that it is God who fights and wins the

David said to Saul, "Whenever your servant would Shepard the flock for
his father, if a lion or bear came and carried off a lamb from the
flock, I would go after it and strike it down, and rescue it from its
mouth ....

God, who rescued me from the hand of the lion and from the hand of the
bear, he will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine!"

     [The future King David, makes a bold and correct proclamation.]

Saul clothed David in his uniform: he put a helmet of bronze upon his
head and clothed him in armor.  David strapped on his sword, over his
uniform, and he tried to walk, but he was not used to them...

David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these, for I am not used to them."

     [Even David has some doubt of how all this will happen?  He tries
     on the armor and the sword -- but it doesn't feel right.  Finally, he
     goes back to what he knows best, "The Top of His Game."]

So David removed them from himself; he took his stick in his hand and
chose for himself five smooth stones .... and he approached the

The Philistine (Goliath) said to David, "Come to me, that I may give
your flesh to the fowl of the heavens and to the beasts of the field!"

     [Goliath brags, but they are empty, human words. He draws
     confidence from his own perceived strength will cost him.]

But David said to the Philistine, "You come at me with a sword and
scimitar and a spear, but I come at you with the name of Lord of the
Heavenly Armies...whom you have mocked!  This day, God will turn you
over to my hand so that I will strike you down and will remove your
head from you; I will give your carcass... to the fowl of the heavens
and the wildlife of the earth, so that all the earth may know that
Israel has a God ....

that it is not with a sword or with a spear that the Lord delivers --
for the battle is God's, and he will give all of you into our hand!"

     [David brags in the power of God to carry the day.]

... David hurried out and ran toward the ranks to meet the
Philistine; and David stretched out his hand to the bag, and he took
from there a stone, and slung it, and he struck the Philistine on
his forehead ... and he fell on his face to the ground... David
ran and stood over the Philistine, he took his sword and drew it from
his sheath and he dispatched him, cutting off his head with it....

Best Wishes.
John Murtari

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