Monday, January 30, 2012

The Delicate Fine Line of the Christian Walk

Being a Christian involves the challenge to walk the delicate fine bearing the footprints of JESUS.  We are called to judge actions in order to discern right from wrong but never to judge or stereotype people, because only God can read hearts, truly know & completely understand everyone's motives, reasoning & circumstances.  We are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. We are called to tell the truth in love. With God's grace, love, mercy, wisdom & discernment we pray that we will keep on that fine line, but in our human nature we tend to fall on one side or the other. If we lean too far to the right we can become judgmental, self-righteous, smug, legalistic, pharasaical, set in our ways, & angry. If we lean too far to the left we can become moral relativists with misguided compassion and the "sloppy agape" that enables sin, & we can fail to stand up for essential principles like the sanctity of human life, integrity, purity, & righteousness and to see ourselves as somehow superior because of our "open-mindedness" while judging others as "narrow-minded bigots". Our acceptance of people should not include tacit approval of all their actions.  We need to love and accept people unconditionally but we are not supposed to promote an "anything goes" society.  We cannot have love without truth or truth without love.  At the same time that our lives, words and actions must authentically proclaim "I love you", they must also authentically proclaim that certain behaviors are unacceptable, or else we could be "loving people into hell" and creating a society of moral chaos.

It took me awhile to realize that as hard as I try and as much as I claim to be otherwise, I am sometimes critical and judgmental deep inside, even though I try to fight it and sometimes hide it deep inside myself.  I do strive to be authentic, but sometimes I miss seeing this fault in myself.  However, in striving not to be critical or judgmental I must be careful not to accept the moral relativism of our society and not to fail to stand up for what is right or to try so hard to please people that I compromise my values.  If "sin" is really "missing the mark", then I guess this is often where some of my sin--and possibly the sin of many of us--lies.  JESUS is perfect unconditional love and perfect justice, perfect compassionate love and perfect uncompromising truth.  It is so hard for us to be fully "on target".

In recent years I have become stronger in my convictions of the urgent need to protect the unborn and fight abortion, especially since we have a president who has an extreme pro-abortion agenda and who is closely aligned with Planned Parenthood, the largest purveyor of abortion.  I believe that we who are Christian, especially we who are Catholic, have a moral duty to fight abortion, to fight Obama's agenda, and to work to ensure that in the upcoming election we elect a pro-life candidate to replace him. I know that I find it very difficult not to go from my ardent disagreement with this president--whose views might be connected, in part, to misguided compassion--to severe judgment of him as a person and to hatred of the sinner as well as hatred of his sin. I believe that the abortion issue, freedom of religious expression, protection of conscience rights, and the Judaeo-Christian values on which our nation was founded are the key issues that must guide our voting decision.  Yet there are people of good will--even good Catholics and even strongly pro-life Catholics who are active in the Church and faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium--who do not agree, and there are people who are pro-life who sincerely believe that other issues, like peace (including refraining from engagement in war), social justice, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and our troubled economy are of equal or higher priority. The teaching of the Catholic Church requires us to be pro-life and recommends that the pro-life cause should be an important part of our voting decision, but the Church does not necessarily condemn people who are pro-life but who vote for a pro-abortion candidate or choose not to vote for either candidate if they weigh all the issues and somehow find the pro-life candidate deficient in other important areas. These people either chose to vote for Obama or chose not to vote for either presidential candidate in 2008.  God alone knows their hearts--I don't.  I do not know how many we can successfully win over to give a higher priority to the abortion issue and support and vote for the pro-life candidate in 2012, but I'm trying. Those with more liberal leanings might accuse the candidates who are mostly strongly pro-life of a lack of compassion for the poor, while I would argue that the candidates who support abortion are candidates who are trying to "help" the poor by "killing" the poor by means of abortion and who are not providing for the poor by reaching down and lifting them up but by increasing their dependency on the government and turning America from the land of opportunity to the land of entitlements.  It is hard for me to understand how a pro-life faithful Catholic could ever vote for Obama and could not share my passionate opposition to him, but I know that some have voted for him and might do so again, and although I hope that I can persuade them to my point of view, I also need to respect them and their consciences.  I must not go so far to the right of the fine line to agree with some pro-life Catholic FACEBOOK friends who insist that faithful pro-life Catholics who choose not to put the abortion issue as the highest priority are somehow unfaithful or "cafeteria" Catholics and "paint" all Catholics who voted for Obama with "the same brush".  To do that would be to engage in stereotyping them and to judge people rather than to judge actions.

This can seem very confusing, but finding a delicate balance is no easy task.  The challenge of walking the fine line that JESUS walked is a great challenge.  It is so hard for us as human beings to know the mind of God fully.  I know that God is passionate about the protection of innocent human life and moral righteousness, but He also is a compassionate and merciful God of unconditional love and the only One Who has the right to judge people as well as actions, because only He can fully understand the heart and circumstances of each human being.

LORD, give us Your love, Your grace, Your wisdom, Your vision, and Your truth so that we can truly follow Your footprints on that delicate fine line.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Somebody Your Own Size: Why the Abortion Issue Matters

There are so many people who do not seem to consider the Presidential candidates' stand on the abortion issue as important.  I know that people warn against voting solely on the basis of one issue.  Even people who consider themselves pro-life seem to give the abortion issue a back seat to the economy & to foreign policy or allow themselves to be deceived by smooth rhetoric and empty promises.  Of course, the economy is important, especially when so many Americans are out of work & some have even lost their homes to foreclosure due to joy layoffs & the difficulty of finding another job.  Of course, foreign policy is important because we need to be protected from the threat of terrorism, have a leader who knows how to deal with this threat & with our relationships with the rest of the world & we hope that we will be able to live in peace, security & freedom.  But the number of unborn babies who have already lost their lives to abortion & the ongoing acceptance, enabling & even promotion of abortion in our country is no small matter.  As a nation we have been guilty of a terrible sin, & our attitude toward abortion & to the larger issues of the sanctity of human life in general (e.g. the unborn, children with special needs, the elderly, people with disabilities, people who are seriously ill, conscience rights) says a lot about who we are as a people.  It has been pointed out that the greatness and the morality of a nation is best judged by how we treat those who are most vulnerable, and I believe that this is true.  We need to respect and value the lives of all people, but especially those who are most vulnerable.  I believe that this is very much a part of what it means to be Christian, to be Catholic, and to be American, and our respect for the life and the freedom of others is an essential part of the founding principles of America.  

I'm in my late 50's now, and that means I grew up in the late 1950's, the 1960's and the early 1970's.  My "baby boomer" generation is probably the first to grow up watching television.  One scene that seemed to recur in children's programs and cartoons was the scene in which a bigger kid was starting to pick on a little kid.  An even bigger kid would then come along, stare at the bully and bark, "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size!" and the bully would run away.  This was very much what the America I grew up with was all about.  For better or worse, America was a country where the "little kids" who were being bullied could find a safe haven, where our soldiers rushed to the aid the little countries that were being bullied by the Nazis and the communists, and where the lives of the most vulnerable were protected.  Well, for many years now the lives of the most vulnerable in America have become "at risk".  Unborn babies who are "inconvenient" or who have disabilities, risks and health concerns are considered disposable at the will of their mothers (often due to pressure from others and desperation) and are discarded and even used for experimentation!  Where is the conscience of America?  Should not Americans once again be concerned for the lives of the most vulnerable?  And who is more vulnerable than an innocent, helpless unborn baby? I think it is time for Americans to stand up to the abortionists and to those who enable and promote abortion and demand, "WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEBODY YOUR OWN SIZE!!"  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pro-Life Meditations on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Pro-Life Meditations on the Joyful Mysteries
(Arlene B. Muller)

(1)   The Annunciation
Mary, you said “yes” to becoming the Mother of JESUS.  Though you had the great privilege of being mother of our LORD, Savior and Messiah, your “yes” was given in light of great risk to your reputation, your future, your relationships, and even your life!  You were subject to false accusation, and if not for God’s protection and the love and openness of Joseph, you could have been stoned to death!
Thank you for your courageous “yes’ to life and to God’s will in your life.  Inspire, be present with, encourage and intercede for the many women in crisis pregnancies.  They also face great risks and challenges and need courage to say “yes” to life in a society that pressures them to seek abortion as a false solution in their desperation.  Be with them at every moment to help them choose life and be their comfort, model and guide throughout their pregnancies, at every moment.

(2)  The Visitation
Mary, when you heard the news of your cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy you went in haste to be with her, to bring her and her unborn baby the joy of the Holy Spirit by bringing JESUS, alive in your womb, to her.  It is so easy for us to tell women not to have abortions.  We are called not only to speak out for life but also to put our respect for life into loving service.  Help us to show women in crisis pregnancies compassion, understanding, and spiritual, psychological, physical, and material support.  LORD, bless the work of crisis pregnancy centers, of Birthright, Bridge to Life, Good Counsel Homes, and all pro-life organizations who provide help to women in crisis pregnancies and all the people who work in them.  Help all of us to do our part in supporting their work.  Consecrate their work and bless all the women, the babies, and families to whom they minister.

(3)  The Birth of JESUS
LORD, the night on which you were born was a great occasion of joy for the entire world and the night of the birth of Great Love.  We often forget that this birth took place under less than ideal circumstances.  Your mother had to give birth to You in a stable or cave and place you in a manger used for feeding messy animals!  Joseph, your loving and chaste spouse, was with you, but you did not have the benefit of sanitary medical facilities.  Many women are giving birth in less than ideal circumstances.   Some are giving birth in poverty.  Others are in the best medical facilities, but have no husband or parent or other loving person to give them comfort, love and support.  Mary, be their loving mother and intercessor.  LORD, as the angels came to surround You and announce the glorious news of Your birth, send Your holy angels to surround the new mothers and their babies so that in spite of their difficult circumstances, the new lives may be welcomed with joy.

(4)  Presentation of JESUS in the Temple
LORD, it is Your will that every child born be dedicated to You.  Thank You for the gift of faith and the gift of baptism that makes every person baptized Your child and a member of Your family.  Many parents do not share our faith and do not have the joy of having their children baptized and do not know how to raise them to love and obey You.  Show Yourself present to all parents and children and help them to come to know and love You.
Mary, at a time of joy in presenting your Son and hearing the witness of those who recognized and accepted Him as the Messiah, you were warned that you would experience great sorrow, so you understand the sorrows and joys of child raising and you still have a tender mother’s heart.  LORD, may parents—especially mothers—feel Your Presence and the presence of Mary with them and give them the love and wisdom they need throughout the j0ys, sorrows and challenges of parenting.

(5)  Finding the Child JESUS in the Temple
LORD JESUS, when You were missing for 3 days YOU knew You were in the right place and so did Your Father in heaven, but to the anxious minds of Mary and Joseph, You were lost!
There are many children, teens and young adults who are lost, whether physically, psychologically, or spiritually.  Some have no one concerned about them.  Many have anxious parents, guardians and relatives praying for them with great sorrow and desperation.  Help those who are lost in any way and those who are seeking them in sorrow find You.  Bring those who are lost safely home to loving families and back home into relationship with You.  May women in crisis pregnancies who have been estranged from their families find a safe, secure, loving and welcoming home for themselves and their children.

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller (Arlene Clare Muller, SFO)

These were written after I prayed the rosary at 7AM on the day of the MARCH FOR LIFE.  I felt inspired to write these as I realized how deep a connection is between the Joyful Mysteries and the pro-life cause.

"From Sister to Brother"

The following is the rap/poem that I wrote in response to the video "I Hate Religion But I Love Jesus":
From Sister to Brother – Response to “I Love JESUS But Hate Religion”
(By Arlene B. Muller)

I’m glad you love JESUS!  You’ve made a great start
If you’ve welcomed JESUS to live in your heart.
Welcome, my brother!  God’s called you to be
A part of His wonderful family!
For all of God’s children are sisters and brothers.
He’s joined to us all, so we’re joined to each other.
It begins and not ends when you have the new birth,
For we are Christ’s Body right down here on  earth.
He gives us His Spirit and gives us His grace
To spread His good news to the whole human race.
He started with 12, but from the very beginning
He put them to work—lots of souls needed winning!
He’s our Savior and LORD and He’s made us His own,
And ensured none of us would have to “go it alone”.
The Holy Spirit came on that Pentecost night,
So the Church was born and we’d do what is right.
The disciples preached JESUS, Who rose from the dead.
Now we are His Body, and He is our Head.
Christ gives us His Word that He wants us to keep.
He’s our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep.
He feeds us His Body in the Breaking of Bread;
Those who eat of His flesh won’t be spiritually dead.
Rules, rubrics and laws are only a part
Of the way we love JESUS, alive in our hearts.
The Church and the laws will help us do better
When we follow the Spirit, and not just the letter.
Relationship is what helps us stay true
To the LORD and His Church and what He calls us to do.
Religion’s not bad when it serves as our mentor
As long as we keep JESUS CHRIST as our Center!

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller

Starting At the Very Beginning

Hi!  Some of you who are reading this are family members, some are personal friends, & some are people I have met through FACEBOOK.  In figuring out how to write a blog--something that is totally new to me-- I'm not quite sure how to begin, but I'm reminded of Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp singing, "Let's start at the very beginning--a very good place to start..." I am a happily celibate single Catholic Christian middle aged woman who is active in the Catholic Church as a lector, a Eucharistic minister, a choir member, & a professed member of the Secular Franciscan order.  I've also been part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I've sung in different music ministries. At the moment I'm unemployed, but I am a part-time teacher of preschool children with special needs & I've also begun to do some free lance writing.  If any of you have read any of my e-mails & FACEBOOK posts & comments you will know that I like to write--A LOT--& I have deeply held convictions regarding faith & Church & I'm strongly pro-life.  I love to sing & I have written some children's songs & some Christian songs.  I have ideas for two children's books. I would like to use this blog to share some of my writing (some of which some of you might have already seen).  My goal is to be able to combine part-time teaching, writing, & music & to do what I can to make a positive impact on the lives of others & help build the Kingdom of God.  I'm calling this blog "Joysong's Journey" because I am generally a joyful person & I take the name partially from Psalm 100:2 that I hope describes my life, "Serve the LORD with gladness.  Come into His Presence singing for joy", and because we are all on the journey of life with its ups and downs and mysteries and puzzles that hopefully will lead us to our ultimate home in heaven.  So, welcome to Joysong's Journey.  I hope that we can help each other to become all that God has created us to be.  Several years ago when I was working toward ensuring my certification as a Teacher of the Speech and Hearing Handicapped and wanted to make sure I was doing all I was supposed to do, I made up this little prayer inspired by the last words of St. Francis of Assisi and by the Serenity Prayer, "LORD, help me to do what is mine to do, to trust You to do what is Yours, and to enjoy the ride.