Difficult Questions

I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems to me that the further I travel along the Christian path, the more difficult the questions I have to ask myself become.  In a previous blog, I wrote about the diaries of Dorothy Day–Duty of Delight (the Diaries of Dorothy Day) edited by Robert Ellsberg –Book Review.  I found myself convicted by her statement that we love God only as much as that person we like the least.  How much is that if I am truly honest?

Currently I’m reading a book by Dr. Derwin L. Gray entitled, The Good Life.  (You’ll be seeing a review of it shortly).  It focuses on the beatitudes.  Here are some questions he poses in his section on mercy:

  • Who is your greatest enemy?
  • Who has hurt you the most?
  • How do you feel about those who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from your position?
  • What people group of a different ethnicity or socioeconomic status do you hold ill will toward?

And then of course, the big question — if God loved me and offered me forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy when I was His enemy, How can I not do likewise?  Consider these verses from the book of Romans:

“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”  Romans 5:10

Is this easy?  Of course not.  It’s not easy to put aside fear of those who are different, to forgive the person who hurt you, to show mercy to someone who harmed you.  But going to the cross wasn’t easy for Jesus, either.  However, that’s exactly what we’re called to do.  To love others, not just in word, but in deed.  Not necessarily the warm, fuzzy feeling of love that comes and goes, but the charitable love that is patient, compassionate and thinks the best of others. (Charity = Love)

Sounds good, but how do we do this in practical terms? The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies — so pray.  Not just for enemies in general, but that particular person you feel unable to tolerate.  Pray not that they will change, but that things will go well for them.  We’re also called to do good to those who harm us.  In other words, get to know them, and let them know you.  Their perspective may change, and so may yours.

Well, I’ve talked long enough and now I’d like to hear from some of you, readers and authors.  What are the difficult questions you’re struggling with?

 

 

 

 

Duty of Delight (the Diaries of Dorothy Day) edited by Robert Ellsberg –Book Review

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, and now with the library closed due to the pandemic, I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.  If you haven’t heard of Dorothy Day, she was a Catholic convert, born in 1897, who started The Catholic Worker newspaper and established a number of Hospitality Houses for the poor.  She led an interesting and productive life which challenges all of us to live out our particular Christian vocation not just in word, but deed.

Her diaries begin in 1934 and continue until shortly before her death in 1980 — so the book is long.  A diary is also not always easy reading.  She mentions many people and events (both personal and historic) without completely explaining who they are or exactly what is going on at the time. The work is annotated, but it can still be hard to keep track of who’s who.  Some (many) entries are short, some are spaced far apart (months or more), so it can seem choppy.  If you haven’t read anything yet about Dorothy, I would recommend you start with one of her autobiographical works (The Long Loneliness  or Loaves and Fishes).  There is also a section about her in another book I reviewed recently, Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster–Book Review.

Here are some things that stood out to me about Dorothy’s life:

  • Her pacifism.  She was completely against war, helped conscientious objectors, demonstrated and was jailed, and refused to pay income tax because she would not contribute to war in any way.
  • Although she lived out her Christian principals in ways most of us would find radical, she was always conscious of her own failings.  She often wrote about her need to be kinder, more patient, to tame her tongue and so on.  She had the same struggles we all face.
  • Her care for her family.  With all her work and travels, she remained deeply devoted to her daughter, Tamar, her grandchildren, her sister and other family members.
  • She was a voracious reader.  You will find many titles in her diary that you may want to seek out and read for yourself.
  • Love was her overarching theme.  Some of her favorite quotes were:

“You love God as much as the one you love the least”

“Where there is no love put love and you will find love.”

 

  • She strove always “to make the kind of society where it is easier to be good.”

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  Anything by or about Dorothy Day will challenge and inspire the reader.

For more posts on Dorothy Day see:

Dorothy Day on Giving

A Quote by Dorothy Day

Entertaining Angels– Movie Review

 

 

 

 

Little Children, Love One Another

“I have given them the glory that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.  I am in them, and you are in me, so that they may be completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”  John 17:22-23

This is from what is called the high priestly prayer of Jesus, a prayer which He prayed shortly before his death.  It’s from the gospel of John, and reminds me of a story about the apostle.  He lived to be very old, and it’s said that when he became unable to stand and preach, he would be carried into the church where his entire sermon was simply, “Little Children, love one another.”  Love is the major theme in John’s writing, and in his life.  He knew that as Christians, we are called to be one body, to love one another and to love others. That is what the world should see when they look at us.

However, John’s simple message is easier said than done.  I’m currently reading the diaries of Dorothy Day, which I’ll probably finish and review later this month.  Dorothy was a Catholic who started a number of “hospitality houses” for the needy and homeless.  She welcomed and loved the kinds of people who were pretty unlovable — alcoholics, those who were mentally ill, some who were simply dirty and/or disagreeable.  She was criticized by many in the church for her “extreme” methods.  It was a constant struggle for her to love, yet she knew that was her calling as a child of God.  Like the apostle, John, love was her theme.

We too must deal with people every day that we have trouble loving.  Some are our neighbors!  Some are our fellow church members!  Some are family! Often people behave in ways that upset or annoy us.  We feel used.  We feel disrespected.  Face it, we feel angry.  We want to tell them off or walk away.  However, the words of Scripture are clear.  We are to love others.  We are especially to seek unity in the church.  We cannot allow our personal feelings to get the better of us. If we do, we’re disobeying the words of Christ.

So, here’s my point. Struggle, but don’t give up.  Remember your own sins and how you have been forgiven.  Let love be your theme.

 

Entertaining Angels– Movie Review

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Hebrews 13:2

The other night my husband and I watched the movie, Entertaining Angels:  The Dorothy Day Story.  If you don’t know anything about Dorothy Day, I can only say that learning more about her will challenge you to a more radical kind of Christian love (agape).

As a young woman, Dorothy was not a Christian, but she was always concerned with social justice.  She converted to Catholicism after bearing a child out of wedlock.  Returning to work as a journalist, she felt called to do more than simply write about the plight of the poor — she wanted to do something.  Encouraged by her friend, Peter Moran, she started the Catholic Worker Movement which published a newspaper and established “hospitality houses”  to minister to the physical needs of the homeless and hungry.  Dorothy (and her young daughter) lived with the poor and shared their lives.  Later in life she was jailed multiple times for protesting war and nuclear armament. Some have called her “the American Mother Theresa.”

Dorothy took the words of Jesus literally.  She tried to live her life as He did.  This made many people, even fellow Christians, uncomfortable.  She lived her faith.  She welcomed and loved people most of us would find undeserving and unlovable.  Was it easy?  No.  The movie depicted her frustration, anger and loneliness. Why did she continue?  She felt it was God’s call to her.  What is His call to you?

Dorothy Day on Giving

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A Quote by Dorothy Day

I’ve been reading a book by Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love, and I really liked this quote.  It’s a little off topic, but then is love ever off topic when it comes to Christianity?  In case you don’t know Dorothy Day was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and started the first of many houses of hospitality for the poor and homeless.

“If we could only learn that the important thing is love, and that we will be judged on love–t0 keep on loving, and showing that love, over and over, whether we feel it or not, seventy times seven, to mothers-in-law, to husbands, to children–and be oblivious to insult, or hurt, or injury–not to see them, not to hear them.  It is a hard, hard doctrine.”

 

Yes, But How?

Well, we all seem to agree that witnessing is something every Christian should do.  Now we come to the important question Nancy raised, which I call YBH–Yes, but how?  I’m going to start with a quote I like from Dorothy Day.  In case you don’t know who she was, Dorothy, after living a completely unchristian life for many years, converted to Catholicism and founded a number of hospitality houses (rescue missions) where she tried to live and work in a very simple way, not owning much more than her “guests.”

“Works of mercy are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the prisoner, and burying the dead.  The spiritual works of mercy are instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, rebuking the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving all injuries and praying for the living and the dead.  Works of mercy are the most direct form of(I would add here apostolic)  action there is.

from Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day

When we imitate Christ by doing His work on earth, things like the ones Dorothy lists, we are most truly his witnesses. Of course, it is also important that the folks we are witnessing to know who (or maybe I should say whose) we are.  That comes from building an ongoing relationship with them.  (probably a topic for another post).

Going back to Nancy’s comment citing St. Francis of Assisi, I recently read a story about him in the Max Lucado Study Bible.  It is said he once asked a young monk to go with him to a nearby village to preach.  They arrived and St. Francis began to visit people:  the butcher, the cobbler, the teacher, a new widow.  This went on all morning until Francis told his follower, “It’s time to return to the abbey.”  “But we came to preach” protested the young man, “and we haven’t preached a sermon.”  “Haven’t we?” responded Francis.  “People have watched us, listened to us, responded to us.  Every word we have spoken, every deed we have done has been a sermon.  We have preached all morning.”

So what do you think readers and Lutheran Ladies?  Do we witness through our actions?  How do you witness?  I want to hear your stories.

 

Many Ways to Pray

“Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow?  I doubt it.  I believe some people, lots of people pray through the witness of their lives, through the work that they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people.  Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?”

Dorothy Day

Years ago I took a two year course in spiritual direction.  We spent a lot of time reading spiritual classics and learning about prayer.  The first thing I learned is that most of us, like Beth Ann, are not completely satisfied with our prayer lives.  Remember, even the disciples asked Jesus, “teach us to pray.”(Luke 11:1).  The second thing I learned is that there are many ways to pray, and that we should pray as we can, not as we can’t.

This month in my posts I want to tell you about some different ways to pray.  Beth Ann has already mentioned three:  having a quiet place and time to pray, sending up quick prayer arrows throughout the day, and writing in a journal. All of these are good.  Give them a try.  You don’t have to do them all at once, and you don’t have to keep doing what doesn’t work or isn’t comfortable. See what fits into your life, and what works fits your personality. In my own life  I’ve  found that a method of prayer will work for me for a while, and then it just doesn’t. Maybe that’s just me or maybe that happens to you, too.  I used to feel this was a kind of failure, but now I’ve learned it’s just time to change and try something else, at least for a while.

Frank Laubauch, a Christian missionary, once said, “I really do believe that all thought can be conversations with Thee.”  I’ve come to see that in all my busy thinking, I’m constantly talking to God.  I tried to describe to my husband once how God is always on my mind, and part of my thought processes, even if it’s not completely obvious.  He said, “so it’s as if God is your operating program, always running in the background?” I guess that comes pretty close to explaining my experience. And if God is my operating program then, I can say that in some sense, my whole life is a prayer.

I hope this doesn’t sound conceited.  I fall down in my prayer life all the time.  Sometimes that operating program is running and I still ignore for a while. Saying my thoughts and my life are prayer doesn’t excuse me from other kinds of prayer:  corporate prayer, intercessory prayer, studying the scriptures prayerfully, singing prayerfully, etc..  In fact, I think I need to be doing some of these things regularly in order to keep my mental conversation with Christ going.

Anyway, in all this rambling, what I really want to say is KEEP PRAYING. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not doing it right. It doesn’t matter how you do it,  what matters is your earnest desire to know Jesus and be with Him.

I hope this month we’ll get lots of feedback about the prayer life of other Christian women.  What have you tried?  What worked or didn’t?  We’re interested in hearing from you.

 

 

 

Books on Sacrficial Living

The Hiding Place & Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  She was imprisoned for her activities.  Her first book, The Hiding Place, tells about this ordeal.  Tramp For the Lord is the sequel.

The Duty of Delight:  The Diaries of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and devout Catholic convert.  She tirelessly served the poor by creating a community dedicated to direct aid for the homeless. 

Love Mercy by Lisa Samson and Ty Samson

This is the story of a family’s journey from living in a five-thousand square foot house in suburban Baltimore to caring about justice, mercy and the kingdom of God breaking into our suffering world.  They eventually sold their home to purchase a run down Victorian which they call a “hospitality house,” open to those who need a place to heal, be safe, or just relax for a while.  Lisa and daughter, Ty, eventually travel to Africa to chronicle the AIDS crisis.

The Diary of Elisabeth Koren (1853-1855)

This diary takes us on a journey across the Atlantic to the frontier of the Middle West with her young husband who served many Lutheran congregations.  Travel is primitive;  her husband is gone for weeks at a time, and Elisabeth lives with other families in a crowded Iowa log cabin until the first parsonage is finally built.

These women can be mentors for us in trying to be a “living sacrifice.  Have you read any of these books?  Will you?  Do you have others to suggest?  Let us know.