Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Hagar mistake

Ever heard the expression "A Hagar mistake"? Well it means a grievous error, a misjudgement of God's work in our lives. I first came across it some years ago when I read the story of Abram and Sarai in the Old Testament book of Genesis.  Basically, after choosing Abram from whom He was to create His people, God told Abram that he would have more descendents than the stars in the sky.  His wife Sarai was hiding behind a curtain and on hearing this laughed at the impossibility of it all. Both she and Abram were old people and she was more than sterile from old age. How could she give birth to a nation?

The story goes that God heard her laugh and told Abram that he would have a son .  But on being convinced that God had really spoken and made a pact, Sarai decided to take the situation into her own hands, believing that God had ignored an important fact of this situation....she was unable to concieve. So she directed Abram to her own Egyptian maid servant Hagar, basically pushing her husband into another woman's arms so that she would conceive the promised child that Sarai couldn't.  The resultant child was Ishmael but with him were equally born doses of jealously and contempt between the two women for years. Sarai did not realise how God works and that the impossible was not impossible for Him.  In fact she did eventuallybecome pregnant from Abram and gave birth to a son whom God said should be called Isaac, that is, the laugh (in fact he did end up being a laughing stock in the social circles of his time). From that line eventually came Jesus.  It is claimed by the Muslims that they descend from Ishmael, Abram's son through Hagar.  And the rest of the "battle of the brothers" is history, as they say.  

But the point of this post is to highlight how easily we too can commit a Hagar mistake ourselves, by taking the law into our own hands and pushing God into the back seat of our car.  We tell Him that in reality we are driving and that we are in control.  He can be our consultant and give advice on how or where to go....but He is not allowed to interfere in  how we get there.  Our own GPS is far better that Him. We want to do it our way,  as Frank Sinatra sang for us so many years back.

Next time you're out and around in the world, faced by the worldly opinions from friends and colleagues abouthow to look at things, and think about who is in control.  Because when you are in control, the pressure and the stress are directly on you and there is no one else by yourself who has to somehow find the solution/s to cope.  But when you allow someone else with more experience to take over then we can really taste the sweeter side of life.  So it is with us when we manage to allow our Great God to take over and run our lives. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making the most of the rest of your life

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrightousness.  

This is a quote from the First letter of John (ch1:v8-9) and makes a lot of sense when you stp to think about it  The basic conclusion is that I am no saint, can never be one even in my wildest dreams, so therefore I am a sinner....and God loves me for that!  Sounds crazy and human terms but not by His. 

It may be hard to believe that such complete and gracious unforgiveness is possible: it certainly goes beyond any forgiveness we may experience with other people.  But God’s word reassures us that His forgiveness is complete and trustworthy. The new promised world that awaits us will be peopled by forgiven sinners, just like us. 

In Luke (12:13-21), Jesus tells the story of a man who made detailed preparations for this life. He said: “I will tear down my barns and build larger ones to store all my grain and goods”. But he neglected to make plans for the life after this one. God’s view of this man is less than favourable and He said: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you and the things you prepared, whose will they be?”  Jesus concluded the parable: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”.

I have just finished reading a book called “Making the most of the rest of your life” by Australian John Chapman.  I found it very inspiring especially in the light of the foregoing. The book is really all about death and what happens after we die. But it isn’t morbid.  Far from it. It is all about the Good News and what is awaiting us on the other side. 

The author explains his idea this way:  I am 76 years old.  I live in a retirement home. Life here has been a new experience for me. The paper man comes at 4.30 a.m. and the ambulance at 9.15 a.m. Sometimes it brings people home, but not always. Your mortality presses in.  You may think it’s strange then that I am writing about making the most of the rest of our lives. Humanly speaking, I don’t have all that much left. The average male lives for 79 years. That doesn’t leave me much time.  On the other hand, if there is life after death, if eternity is really eternity and I have the greater bulk of my life to look forward to, then that makes all the difference… Sometimes people think that there is no real urgency to take action to prepare for this eternity.  They think that there is plenty of time and that they will deal with God’s invitation later. Jesus’ parable from Luke is more than the answer not to delay because we do not know the hour nor the day. But we can rely on His love and forgiveness. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Are we in an Eternal Present?

I just read an interesting interview with British psychiatrist Dr Kajetan Kasinski in which he discussed his Catholic faith and its bearing on his profession (September issue: "The Messanger of St Anthony", the international Franciscan monthly -

Naturally, being a scientist who specialises in how the brain works, he clearly has his feet firmly planted on the ground especially where things supernatural are concerned. "At home, I often spend time in a quiet place - a shed in my garden.  I go there to try and pray or to be silent. At times I say to myself that this is superstitious, that no one is listening to me, that it's all nonsense.  At other times I am furious and angry, but I don't know who with. On other occasions, and without knowing why, I just end up crying. I don't have those experiences in which you feel you are being held or embraced  (though I  feel envious of those who do); what I experience is something I don't really understand. I don't think God is understandable".

At one point Kasinski was asked does he believe in the power of prayer.  He replied: "I do but I do not think that God necessarily answers our prayers on our terms. My father spent most of the Second World War in a prisoners-of-war camp.  He told me that he was hungry most of the time and wished that I would never experience hunger in my life, as it was a terrible thing.  He has since passed away, but funnily enough, sometimes, when I am eating, I can feel it is as if I am feeding him, that I am helping sustain a person 65 years ago who couldn't have even conceived of my existence then".

To explain this time-warp concept a bit better he said that "In the British Journal of Psychiatry there was a article describing a really interesting experiment on prayer.  The names of people hospitalised for TB some 100 years ago were randomly divided into two lists. One list was given to a prayer group which read the names on it aloud in their weekly meetings for about 10 weeks. The other list was kept in an office. After this they looked at the results and found to their astonishment that the people who had been prayed for, had, a hundred years earlier, had better medical outcomes than the ones who hadn't been prayed for.

"Now this doesn't make any sense at all in terms of cause and effect in daily life because it's asking for something that has already happened. It does, however, bring to mind the idea that when you pray you are in a dimension that is outside of time and space, as well as the belief that when we pray or are celebrating mass we are all in Holy Communion with God and all the faithful, past, present and future - we are all in an Eternal Present".  

This is a very interesting  concept which I have often thought about.  I have called it "The Present Continuous." I feel that, while we know that God is not effected by time such that for Him everything is the present, then if someone asked me to pray for them, say because they were going to undergo an operation, and I accidentally forgot to do so on the appointed time of the operation, I could still pray for a good outcome for my friend even days later.  Because God, in His infinite greatness, would have known in advance that I was going to forget to pray then but that I would do so some days later, and He would take my prayer from the future to the moment when it was needed.  A bit mind bogling but pretty logical if you stopped to think about it....and very true too.  
Perhaps we really are in an Eternal Present after all!   

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What can I do with myself?

I am sure many of us think of what we can do with ourselves to be of a greater impact to life around us and, possibly, also to the whole world.  Great aspirations but which, because of our shortsightedness, we rarely achieve.  And the problem may be our starting point: OURSELVES!!  We may have the wrong approach after all.

Look at the following words that are written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it too seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now as I lay on my deathbed, I suddenly realize if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.   ( Author Unknown)

This logic is so succinctly put that I suppose no further comment from me is needed....!!

The Last Word?

Make yourself at home here, come back and read some of the older cappuccino posts too, relax, reflect.... and comment if you wish....there's a comment button at the end of each post!
I hope to see you again in a few days time. Enjoy.