Friday, February 26, 2010

Ideas for Lent; Saint Francis' Prayer- for others

I lost a former colleague last year who, even though he taught at a Lutheran high school, had grown up Catholic. Whenever it was his turn to lead a prayer or give a devotion at faculty meetings he pulled out a beautiful prayer written by Saint Francis. I shouldn't say he "pulled it out," because he never had a printed copy, he had it committed to memory. I always admired that and have tired, but haven't succeeded yet, to memorize it myself.

I've posted this prayer on this blog before, but an idea occurred to me the other day that I'd like to share today. The idea is one I've had before- Click here to see the post I wrote about praying the Lord's Prayer for someone else. So here it is, think of someone you'd like to bless, someone who needs your prayers, and pray the prayer of St. Francis for them:

Lord, make ________________ an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let he/she 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.

O Divine Master, grant that ________________ may 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:
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ideas for Lent; Fogive God

"You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need"
~from the Rolling Stones' 1969 album 'Let It Bleed.'
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
Forgive God?! What kind of BLASPHEMY is this?! And what's with the Rolling Stones lyric? What are you THINKING? How can this possibly be Christian. Have you gone off the deep end?

Hear me out. I recognize that God is perfect, He doesn't sin. Jesus is the only human who never sinned. Obviously, therefore, He does not need to be forgiven for anything.

I know this, God knows it. But remember what Paul says in Philippians 2:6-7, "(Jesus) being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing..." The very creator of the universe took on the nature of a servant. That doesn't mean He sinned, I'm not saying that. But have you ever wondered why He had to be baptized? Surely not to receive forgiveness of His sins, not to secure His salvation. Jesus did that to obey the Father and to set an example for us.

So what does that have to do with us forgiving Him? Well, it's a different kind of forgiveness. Obviously there's no way we can ever offer God absolution or justification for anything He thinks, says or does. It goes without saying that we are always the ones who need that kind of forgiveness from Him.

But God does allow us to wrestle with Him, to be angry with Him and disagree with Him. Sure, we're the one's in the wrong when we do, but there's still give and take. He wants to have a genuine relationship with us.

So when and why would you ever need to forgive God? And what for? When you feel like He's hurt you or not answered your prayers the way you thought would've been best.

Jonah knew something about this. He didn't want to preach that the people of Nineveh needed to repent, but when he tried to run away from God, God sent the whale. Yes, He gives a free will, but He also knows our destinies.

George Bailey in the Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," wanted a life of adventure and accomplishment. He thought that he was a failure because he never left Bedford Falls and it looked like he was headed for jail because his Savings and Loan was about to fail an audit. But Clarence the angel knew that over and over again in his humble life, God had used him to help others in countless ways, the impact of which there was no way of measuring.

As part of my own midlife crisis, I've been frustrated that God didn't make me a world famous (and rich) professional writer and/or cartoonist. Do you ever whine that you're "just a ___________?" I did. But if I'm honest, and a little more appreciative, I can't believe how much I've been blessed. My wife, my kids, so many friends and loved ones- many of whom are former students and cheerleaders. The experiences, the opportunities, a great job... If I really sat down and tired to count my blessings, I couldn't do it- they're innumerable.

So first I said, "God, I forgive you for not always giving me my way, like some kind of temper-tantrum throwing toddler. I know You didn't mean to hurt me, in hindsight, I realize that You really DO know what's best for me, and I'll never be able to thank You enough for all You've given me."

Then, of course, I had to seek His forgiveness for being so selfish and short-sighted, let alone being such an ungrateful ingrate.

Okay, maybe a more orthodox way of saying it would be to surrender our will to His, to recognize His sovereignty, His wisdom, his Love and benevolence for us, and His omniscience. But whatever you call it, everyone needs to let go of their demands and open themselves to the grace and abundance with which God has already showered them.

If you do, you can start enjoying and appreciating what He prepared just for you, uniquely and especially. You can finally begin to live with an attitude of gratitude. "Go ahead and "forgive" Him, and then start THANKING Him for knowing what's best, and wanting it for you.

"It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got"
~from Sheryl Crow's "Soak up the Sun," from her 2002 album, C'mon C'mon.  
"Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers"
 ~Garth Brooks, on his 1990 album, 'No Fences.'

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ideas for Lent; Take it with you

Here's a simple and creative way to hide God's Word in your heart. Some people buy business card sized cards with Bible verses written on them that they can carry with them in their purse or wallet and read, memorize and recite the verse during their personal time with God, when they feel they need the promise God gives in that particular verse, or whenever they have time throughout the day.

You can update this practice by putting those Bible verses you want to have available, or perhaps are hoping to try to memorize on your ipod! You heard right. Write, or copy-and-paste a prayer, hymn, creed or Scripture passage into a text document. Not Word or Works, just simple Notepad, saved as a ".txt" file.

If you choose to be able to "manually manage" you're 5th generation ipod Nano, rather than just letting itunes automatically synch your mp3 player, you should be able to open it as a portable USB file drive in the "My Computer" section of your PC. (I'm not sure how it would work on a Mac). Then, simply drag whichever text files you want to be able to view on your ipod. Then when you turn on your ipod, navigate to the "Extras" menu and look for "Notes."

This is great if you're want to be discreet, like if you don't want to carry a big hardcover Bible around school or the gym. You can read or recite a prayer or Bible verse and people around you will just assume that you're just playing with your ipod.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ideas for Lent; Repeat this 490 times

It used to be that one way that teachers would discipline students was to make them write "standards." Standards were where kids would write something one hundred times either on the chalk board or in their notebooks. "I will not talk without permission in class, I will not talk without permission in class, I will not talk without permission in class,etc. etc."

Today's teachers tend not to use this approach, not so much because it's cruel or unusual, but because they want their students to enjoy writing, so they'd rather not have the kids associate it with punishment. But believe it or not, this old fashioned penalty could give us an idea for new-fangled  prayer and meditation. Follow me...

Someone once said that forgiveness is like an onion, you have to peel away the layers and it often causes tears. Before you compare forgiveness to Shreck, hear me out. It's one thing to verbally offer forgiveness or offer release from any further responsibility for however they wronged you, but you may be left with plenty of residual hurt and harm. Emotional pain freezes us sometimes, we are scarred and like a physical scar, you may heal but part of you is hardened. You may have forgiven the person who sinned against you enough for them, but you probably still have to revisit the hurt and continue to forgive them for your own sake, over and over, sometimes for years.

In William Paul Young's book, 'The Shack,'  a father grieving for his kidnapped and murdered daughter comes to a point when for his own healing and spiritual growth, he has to forgive his daughter's killer. He dosen't just say it once. He has to constantly remind himself that he forgives this heinous criminal. He repeates over and over again- "I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you."

This sounds like having a nervous breakdown, repeating a frantic wish over and over while rocking in a fetal position in a corner or something, but actually repetition has a great deal of emotional, psychological, and educational merit.

'Power of Positive Thinking' author Norman Vincent Peale counseled people to repeat Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," at least ten times a day in order to build both self-confidence and faith and trust in God.

There are new age and success gurus who tell you that if you write a goal at least a hundred times, maybe even write it a hundred times a day for twenty days- you will make it happen. Somehow, they believe, you alter the very fabric of the universe, or draw positive energy toward yourself. Others explain this away by saying that essentially you convince yourself that whatever goal will come to fruition and therefore, subconsciously or however, you work to accomplish that goal.

Whether it's some kind of metaphysical trick, or just cognitive therapy, there's something about repetition that helps get things done. Athletes can't train their bodies by working out just one time. They repeat sets or repetitions of particular exercises as part of a workout and they come back and workout again and again every day or at least every other day for weeks, months or years. Why should spiritual discipline be any different?

People drink 8 glasses of water a day to try to flush their system of impurities. If you've been smoking or drinking, or eating junk food for years, you can't expect to detox your system with just one day of drinking more water than usual, right? It may take weeks of green tea and water- not to mention abstaining from the fat, sugar, yeast, alcohol, tobacco or whatever poison to fully remove the impurities.

Jesus taught His disciples about the "office of the keys" in Matthew 18. He empowered us to free people from the shackles and manacles of sin and anger and grief, or jealousy and resentment and offense. But He also makes clear that it isn't going to be easy. It isn't just a quick fix of snapping your fingers and saying some magic words. Peter asked Him how many times do you have to keep forgiving people who mistreat you? And Jesus answered him with what seems like hyperbole, emphasizing the point that it should be constant and continuous, not just a one-shot deal:

18"Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
 19"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
 20"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
 21Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"  22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. ~Matthew 18:18-22
Jesus, expert in the Torah that He is, was may have been referring to Genesis 4:24, where an angry grandson of Cain, named Lamech, warned his wives that anyone who tried to hurt him would be cursed- "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."

So now that I've prefaced this to death, let me get to the practical, life-applicable idea. Whether you do this silently in your head, verbally like a Zen Buddahists focuses on a word or sound to help them meditate, or whether you sit down with a piece of paper and write it out, this is what you do-

Think of something that someone has done which hurt you, and say "I forgive you." They don't have to hear it, it's for you and between you and God. Be specific, "Joe, I forgive you for taking credit for my idea in the meeting."  "Dave, I forgive you for moving in on the girl I was interested in."  "Janice, I forgive you for laughing at me." But don't just say it once. Say it twenty-five times as part of your prayer or devotion time, and do that for three weeks. You will forgive them over 500 times. You may do it all Lent long, or just for a few days. 70x7=490 is not a magic number, the point is to keep working on it until you're able to finally release it and allow Got to take it away from you for good.

Maybe you've already forgiven the person in person. Maybe after practicing this exercise enough, you'll come to a point when you'll want to forgive them in person. Maybe it wouldn't be appropriate or tactful to actually say something to them. Maybe they have no idea that they did or said anything to hurt you. Maybe they'd never apologize or ask for forgiveness even if they did. That's not the point. The point is to keep pealing back layers of that onion until you are free of the hurt.

It's a great way to ask God to help you live a lifestyle of forgiveness, which is what I believe He wants for each of us. You'll be suprised by how theraputic it can be too. Of course sometimes, it will be humbling because God may just reveal to you that you're perspectives or priorities are a little skewed- that you've been obsesssing about some things that weren't as big as you imagined. You might even end up asking for God's forgiveness, or seeking it from others.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Making Lent positive

"Lent itself was a tradition practiced by the early church. In the 600s, under the papacy of Gregory the Great, Lent became a 40-day period of time (not including Sundays) that helped the church prepare for Easter. It was marked by fasting and by denying oneself of pleasures normally engaged in during the other 325 days of the year. In the early tradition, Christians ate only one meal per day, in the evening. For others it was fasting until noon or 3:00 p.m.

Most traditions included some form of fasting from meat. During Lent, the early church skipped meat, fish, and animal products. In other words, they went vegan for 40 days.

But today, it is sort of a self-help gig for many. I confess to using Lent as a way to prepare for swimsuit season. What could it hurt to skip all the sweets in the name of Jesus? Perhaps if I did it for Jesus I would fit into that swimsuit come Memorial Day. And then I remember that Jesus really does not care how I look at my community pool." ('From Fat Tuesday to a Veggie Lent' by Tracey Bianchi 02-16-2010. God's Politics Blog/Sojourner's Magazine

Not everybody knows what Lent even is, many Christians think that it's nothing but some "Catholic thing." I read somewhere that at one time, Holy Saturday, the day before Easter was set aside for adult baptisms. The 40 days prior were used for adult chatecism instruction, and that is part of why Pope Gregory may have wanted people preparing their hearts and minds for Easter.

My girls are glad we're Lutheran because they can't stand fish. They feel sorry for their Catholic friends. I on the other hand loved the annual fish fry benefit for our town's volunteer fire department. It wasn't much of a sacrifice to me. I piled my plate high with the most delicious Alaskan Pollak, Atlantic Cod and Southern fired catfish I could handle.

The only fish my daughters would eat is the popcorn shrimp. Frankly, at market prices, I think that it would be more of a self-denile to heat steak than to indulge in shrimp (and many other types of seafood) every Friday.

Never the less, it is a great idea to consider the massive struggle and sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, to cut back on some of the things that may have started to take control of your personal time and attention, and to thank God for all the luxury and affluence that we enjoy that most of the world can barely imagine. I for one am trying to use Lent as a second-chance to keep all those New Year's resolutions that I'd already broken.

But why not make Lent a time to START doing something good for you, instead of just a time to give up doing things that are unhealthy. In other words, use Lent as a time to become a little more disciplined about your discipleship. Why should it be just about what NOT to do? Let's make Lent more positive, and proactive instead of negative and reactive. This Lent, DO something new, something to positively effect your relationships with God and with others.

You could commit to reading the Bible every day or setting aside time for prayer or devotions with God.
I have a friend who writes a short "Prayer-Point" devotion that she sends out to friends on a mailing list. (Her writing is a lot more concise than mine, 50-250 words as opposed to my 1,000 average). That is an example of doing something that helps her (and others) grow in faith during Lent. In one of her dispatches, she suggested reading a Psalm a day, another great idea.

I'm not disciplined enough to post a different suggestion every day for 40 days- you'll even notice that I'm writing this five days after Ash Wednesday, but I would like to post some different ideas for things you could try to make Lent a time of growing closer to God and hopefully going deeper in your relationship with Him.

Click here to read some posts about developing Spiritual habits. Including having daily TAWG. TAWG stands for Time Alone With God. Can you spare 15 minutes a day?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 13; He who has the Son has life

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
 6This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. ~1 John 5: 1-12

His commands are not burdensome; believe and love. Is that so hard?
Jesus came to give us life. Don't take my word for it. Who is Jesus? Just another teacher? A social revolutionary?  God tells us Himself when He told Peter James and John (our author) on the mountain at Jesus transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13, in verse 5-

"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

If we believe this, He gives us new life. He shed His blood for us. The water of baptism seals us as His own. If we believe He is who His own Father says He is, we receive the Holy Spirit too. They all constantly confirm each other.

What makes us think we know better than God the Father? At the time that John was writing this book, there were already people claiming that Jesus was merely the most self-actualized person ever, the most god-like, having come closet to God or please God- but not the actual only begotten son of God. There were people teaching that Jesus didn't really die or that if He did, that He wasn't resurrected- so that He didn't save us and can't offer us eternal life let alone a relationship with God, just an example for us to follow.

John, a first hand witness to the transfiguration, wanted to reassure his readers that Jesus is who He says He is. John makes it clear to us that if we don't believe it, if we deny it, we're making God out to be a liar.

When antisemites deny that the NAZI Holocaust really happened, they're basically saying that all of those survivors like Elie Wiesel and Victor Frankl and all the Allied veterans and General Eisenhower and his camera crews are lying about it.

There are plenty of preachers and pastors that I don't always trust, but if God Himself says that Jesus is not just a role model or a prophet, but His own son- I'm gonna believe Him. Eventually church councils were called and after debate, discussion and prayer, they established the Nicene, Apostle's and Athenasian Creeds to make clear once and for all that Jesus wasn't merely some kind of new age guru or just some prophet between Moses and Mohamed, or a great social visionary. He didn't just pretend to die so he could run off and get married and have kids with Mary Madelene.

He is God's only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Mind you, I think sometimes too many Christians limit Him to being their Savior and don't also seek Him as their Lord. I also think that way too often we Christians put Jesus in a box and don't let Him be the spiritual and philosophical example that He is and don't appreciate him as the innovative social revolutionary that He was either. But that's the subject for a different post.

Believe and obey. Here's the thing, if we believe, He makes it possible for us to obey. And if you've been reading any of the rest of these posts on First John, you know that to obey His commands means to love others. If you REALLY believe He is who He is, you'll want to do what He does and what He asks us to do- which is to love others, even those who don't love you back.

We Shall Overcome
 This Gospel hymn was used as a protest song that became a key anthem of the US civil rights movement. It became a favorite of 50's and 60's folk singers Pete Seeger and Joan Baez.Lyrics derived from Charles Tindley's gospel song "I'll Overcome Some Day" (1900), and opening and closing melody from the 19th-century spiritual "No More Auction Block for Me" (a song that dates to before the Civil War).

I tend to believe that it was originally inspired by 1 John 13: 5, "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand some day


We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day


We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid some day


We are not alone
We are not alone
We are not alone some day


The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day


We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lay down your weapons

I've been thinking again about the so called "culture wars." Abortion, gay rights, evolution, prayer in public schools, the "war-on-Christmas," public monuments and displays of faith... It just seems to me that so much of it is not really about rescuing a lost world as it is about desperately trying to exert control over a society that seems out of control. Jesus already won the victory, all we have to do is stand- not attack and demolish.

I end up in an awkward position because some conservative Christians think that I'm a traitor fighting against them, when really I think of my self as a conscientious-objector and a non-combatant. If there's a battle, isn't it one for hearts and minds, even souls- not for authority or control or power or vindication? Isn't the goal to bring souls into the family of God and under his grace and forgiveness- not to kick people out, not to engage in some kind of religious ethnic-cleansing?   

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world." ~2 Corinthians 10:3-4. 
Today's weapons are words, laws, court cases, sound bites, arguments and debates, movements and organizations. But the weapons that I believe Jesus wants us to use are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The tactic I believe He wants us to use are to heal the sick, feed the hungry, defend the widows, orphans and aliens, to visit those in prison, to turn the cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirt of our backs, to love our enemies and to pray for those that persecute us. Positive not negative, faith and love, not fear and anger, freedom not tyranny, progress not regression. You  might say that God's strategy is to fight smarter, not harder.

So brothers and sisters who are confounded by my political and social stances, please know that it's not that I'm fighting against you or failing to stand with you on issues that you are so passionate about- it's that I don't understand why you're so zealous about fighting when the outcome has already been decided. It was won on the cross. My God and His truth doesn't need feeble me to defend Him. Not by might, not by power, but by His Spirit reigns the Lord.
'Weapons' by Jars Of Clay
From their new album, The Long Fall Back To Earth

Halleluiah, we can finally hear
It's a miracle we feel anything at all
The things we planted on the worst days of the year
Grow to fingers that rip at the joy
And set our backs against the wall


Halleluiah, we can finally see
How the bitterness was bruising on our skin
We didn't notice that grace had run so thin
'Till we're falling apart
And the cracks in our hearts let the truth sink in


Halleluiah, we can finally hear
It's a miracle we feel anything at all

So lay your weapons down
There are no enemies in front of you
There are no enemies in front of you


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

- Adapted from John Wesley's Covenant Prayer

This prayer reminds me of what concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom often said, "Hold loosely to the things of this life, so that if God requires them of you, it will be easy to let them go."
It also reminds me that "He must increase, and I must decrease" (John 3:30)
Amazing how unlike Western society Christianity can be. If one didn't know Wesley were British and Christian, would one mistake him for an Eastern mystic or philosopher from this prayer? Emptying of self and letting go of the need for worldly possessions, somewhat Buddah-esque, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because those aren't American ideas, does not mean that they aren't the ideas taught by Jesus Christ.

A more contemporary interpretation might be "Are you going to love things and use people, or use things and love people?"

Call me a "Socialist" and tell people that I shouldn't be allowed to influence young people by teaching in our schools, but I really believe that this is prayer of Wesley's is just what St. Paul calls us to do in Philippians 2,  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:3-5)"

Here are some great verses that talk about holding loosly to the things of this world;
1 John 2:15, Luke 12:15, Hebrews 12:1b-2a, Matthew 13:22, Hebrews 13:5, Philippians 4:11-12, Luke 12:15, Philippians 2:1-11

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 12; NO FEAR

 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." ~1 John 4:16-21

People are always talking about "angst" these days, teen-aged angst, middle-aged angst, middle-class angst, etc. But do we really know the meaning of the word angst? Webster's calls it anxiety.  Famous psychologist and author Viktor Frankl talked about it being a combination of anxiety and anger or frustration due to anxiety.

Anxiety mixed with anger, sounds sort of like two words that "Gonzo journalist" Hunter S. Thompson liked to use, fear and loathing- as in two of his books "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Train in 1972."

Seventeenth Century British Philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that mankind was constantly in a state of conflict and war because of two primal drives, self-preservation (survival) and competition for resources (and interests and power). Left to our selfish human natures, Hobbes explained that life would be ""solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Seems like Sigmund Freud weighed in on anxiety and anger too when he talked about how our two survival instincts are "fight or flight."

Fear and loathing, ignorance and hate.  How many of us, when we sincerely reflect upon it allow these feelings to determine much of our decisions in our daily lives. "What will he/she think if they find out such-and-such?" "What if I don't do that they way they like?" "What if they get their way?"

Life is full of what-ifs. But John tells us in 1 John 4: 18  that if we let God's love in, there won't be room for fear and loathing and the what-ifs will be quieted with the calm and confidence of His reassuring presence.

Why do people lie, cheat, and steal? Fear. We are so afraid that we won't get our fair share that we barge in and take more than we need just to make sure we get ours. We're so afraid of what people will think of us or do to us if we're not everything we wish we were, that we misrepresent who we are or what we've done or failed to do. We over eat because we're afraid we won't get enough to eat. We sleep with a partner before getting married because we're afraid of being alone, of not being able to attract another partner, or of losing that partner if we don't give in to desire. We're afraid to speak up about something because we're afraid of being made fun of. We're afraid to try something new because we're afraid we might fail. We're afraid to talk to someone because we're afraid of being rejected.

Most of the ten commandments are often broken out of angst rather than careful, rationalized premeditation. That doesn't excuse wrong doing, but it proves how broken our relationships are, with God and with each other.

I've already written in this series about how fear can lead also to anger, resentment, hatred, prejudice and bigotry. Whether its a fear of having to relinquish or share status or power or a fear that the lifestyle we're accustomed to and comfortable with will change, racism, sexism, religious bigotry and homophobia are all often (usually) driven by fear.

"What's happening to our community?" "They have their own way of doing things." "One or two of them alone are okay, but if you get a bunch of them together in a group, you're just asking for trouble." "But what will happen to our way of life if they take over?"

John makes it clear in no uncertain terms, God is love, whoever lives in love has God living in them. If you still harbor hate for others, you're still listening to fear instead of trusting God.

Angst is a fact of life, but anyone who's life and behavior is still determined by either aspect of angst, the anxiety or the anger needs to review 1 John 4 and 1 Corinthians 13. Believe me, I'm plagued by angst every single day myself. In verses like Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5, and Matthew 28:20 God promises to be with us. In 2 Timothy 1:7 He says that he didn't give us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love.

When my blood pressure gets high and I'm feeling indignant and irritated or nervous and leery, I meditate on and beg God for the fruit of His Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Some people recite Philippians 4:13 to remind them that they can do all things through Christ's strength.

It isn't easy to escape fear and it certainly isn't always easy to love people the way God asks us to. I highly recommend a book by Martin Luther King called 'Strength to Love,' to anyone who wants to.

Dear Lord,
We live too much of our lives in fear and base too many of our relationships on fear.
We commit too much of our time and energy toward anger and hatred and it has prevented or destroyed relationships and real living.
Help us God, to not be overcome by fear and hate, but overcome angst with love.
Fill us with Your love, Your life, Your presence, Your Spirit, and Your good fruit, so that all fear is driven out, so that there is no room for fear or hate in our hearts, our minds, or our lives.
In Jesus' Name,