Journaling with my Episcocat

Journal writing is my attempt to bring everything in focus and perspective for me. It is my way of telling my story on my own terms. I’m an intense introvert depending on that daily reflective time. My journal time is prayerful. Often, our older cat Sassy will join me in my journal time, those sacred moments in the early morning hours. She is an Episcocat, and it’s her way of keeping a Daily Office routine. It is a rhythm we both cherish. I awake early for that critical early quiet time to begin my day. I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit at my desk in the study room. Sassy crawls up in my lap once I’m seated. We begin morning prayers together. I know she senses the sacred time. She settles down and is perfectly still. The rhythm of her purr begins; all else is quiet and still from my feline prayer partner.

After some moments of prayer, the journal time begins for me. The pages are space for my own voice. The ink flows as my story unfolds on my own terms. The pages are honest, and the process is healing. My eldest Episcocat, Sassy, often stays in my lap as a quiet presence. She doesn’t care much for formal services. I have quiet taking her to the Blessing of the Animals service each year because she gets so scared with all of the other animals around. She is more of a solitary cat with a reflective kind of spirituality. She loves a warm lap and the mesmerizing flow of a pen moving across the page softly, quietly. She is my Episcocat keeping her own rhythm of the Daily Office.

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Understanding Christian Love (for Beginners)

Ephesians 2:1-10

If you have lived on this planet long enough, you know that human beings are capable of doing cruel things. (Click here to read my comments about evil shortly after the terrorist attacks in France.  See “A Light in the Darkness.”)  Every day the news is full of stories about human cruelty . . . people have always possessed the capacity to hate, and I doubt this will change anytime soon. Still, I believe that God made us just as He has created all life, so I also believe the statement that Paul makes in Ephesians, “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . . .”

We, every one of us, are made for good. Even the ones who do horrible things.

I reflected on this specific passage recently for a Bible study, and after the third reading it dawned on me that believing goodness exists within all people is what enables Christians to forgive others. If there is good within the people who do hateful things, then there is hope for the entire human race–inside each wrong is the potential for right, and within darkness is the opportunity for light.

If you have never understood this optimistic side of Christianity, then I argue you have never understood the central message of Jesus. No matter how imperfect a person is, God loves him. No matter how many terrible acts a person has committed, there is always the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. Of course, Paul also requires that person to accept and follow Jesus, but it is our need to be part of a group, the ever-present human desire to pledge allegiance to a nation or a cause, that makes today’s passage sound exclusive instead of inclusive.

Paul’s goal is not to convince everyone to join a political party or accept a philosophy. His point is that from the beginning we were created out of love, and we were designed from that beginning to act in love; therefore, we should accept our true selves and embrace a life of love. Every human being has this love as his or her origin, so this is a message meant for every person regardless of race, nationality, gender, or age.

God’s love is for everyone, and so is His community.

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Ephesians 2:1-10

2You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ*—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Lenten Reflections: We Are Created for Good Works

Lent is a confusing time of the liturgical calendar for me. As a child, I was brought up Catholic, and for reasons that I still do not comprehend, my developing mind equated lent with suffering. The priests’ sermons gave me the impression that we were supposed to endure dehydration and starvation during those long weeks before Easter, and the recounting of the weeks Jesus spent in the desert–enduring that sort of discomfort along with constant temptation from Satan–only reaffirmed this notion.

Today, I am an Episcopalian, but when I first started exploring other forms of Christianity, I was surprised to learn that other denominations recognized Lent. Today, people seem to talk about Lent with excitement, almost as if it is a holiday, and this excitement made me wonder if I had the wrong impression about what this season represents.

Could one feel joy during Lent? Even die-hard followers of the liturgical calendar understand this is not supposed to be a time of suffering. This is supposed to be a time of reflection or, to be more precise, spiritual introspection. This is a time for Christians to examine their lives and find any barriers between themselves and God.

Most Christians connect this time of the year to the days Jesus spent in the wilderness. His wandering in the desert represents a time of self-sacrifice, but the story is not supposed to be grim. There is temptation (and hunger and thirst), but Satan loses, and I imagine Jesus emerges stronger for it. Sacrifice does not have to be depressing when there is a wonderful victory at the end.

During the rest of this Lenten season, a number of posts on this blog will focus on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This strays from our usual pattern of reflecting on passages that follow the Episcopal Lectionary. However, I think there are some important concepts within Paul’s words that have shaped modern Christianity–and yes, there is a passage or two with which I still disagree no matter how many times I read the words.

I think it is important for anyone who claims to be a Christian to reflect on the words that help shape the Christian belief system. I already know that the most important goal is for a peaceful community: may God help me find the peace and love within Paul’s words.