Tag Archives: Life’s choices

Being Both Here and There

It’s hard to be two places at the same time—-we would probably agree that it is impossible!!  It’s a paradox!   And paradoxes aren’t rational.  We have to be one place or the other according to our dualistic minds!     Sometimes we are here and sometimes we are there.   If you are sitting in church  you  can’t be at the golf-course!   If you have something pressing to attend to elsewhere, you must leave “here” and go “there”.   When you do go “there”, what was once “there” becomes“here.” for you.   Everybody knows that you can’t be in two places at the same time.

Now we can fantasize about what it would be like if we could do so.  For example, I often dreamed that I could be in my dorm room sleeping while also sitting in my 8 a.m. class at college.   While I tried to master the art of sleeping in class with my eyes open, I must admit that it didn’t work well for me!   I think everyone here would agree that it would be nice to be at work and also lounging on the beach at Malibu.   However,  we know it’s not going to happen!

But according to the Book of Revelation that was what happened to John, the writer of Revelation—-he was in two places at the same time.

John wrote that he was on the island of Patmos.   That is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea.   It’s a beautiful little place now, it is said, but in the time that John lived it was a Roman prison colony—similar to the place we call Alcatraz.    When you went to Patmos during  John’s time you only needed a one-way ticket—-you hardly ever came back from Patmos!!   And that was where John was—on Patmos, and yet he was not only there, he was also in God’s Kingdom as  he wrote:   “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  And he wrote of seeing God’s throne and a vision of Jesus  “on the clouds” and of the coming completion of God’ Kingdom  as he was  “caught up” and transported to another place  He was at two places at the same time!!

            Although John is in a difficult place on Patmos and probably awaiting a sad fate—he was also in a blessed place in his life—in the Kingdom of God.   

I would suggest to you this morning that Patmos is not only a place, a geographical location, but a frame of mind.  We all can be on our Patmos islands because Patmos is wherever and whenever we find  ourselves trapped and imprisoned by our actions and  our life.   There are many people who feel they are trapped on their  islands of Patmos.   Somehow life has given us a one-way ticket  and we feel as though we are trapped in a prison of our own making or someone else’s making—-but nevertheless  we are “trapped.”

            The reasons for our being on Patmos are as many and as unique as each of us are unique and individual human beings.   We may be there because of bad decisions that we made.   Or we may be there because of bad decisions others made that have affected us.

We may be imprisoned by a disease that is slowly taking our energy and eventually our life.   We may be imprisoned by habits that dominate and ruin our lives and that we have not been able to overcome.  We may feel life has “done us dirty” and that we shouldn’t be on Patmos—-but all of us spend some time on our  “islands of Patmos”.

            The great psychotherapist, Victor Frankl, writes of his “Patmos” in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”.    Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in W.W. II Germany and sent to a Nazi prison camp.   It was a horrible prison camp and most of his fellow prisoners soon died under the terrible conditions, the brutality, the starvation and the resulting hopelessness.   But Frankl survived.   How?    He describes how he survived by recounting that on his way out to the work site every morning, he would be composing a book, all in his mind.   He would go over the book, chapter by chapter.   He would form each page in his brain, imagining in great detail the grand book that he was going to write once he got out of the Nazi prison.   And that kept him going.   In his body he was a slave in a horrible prison camp—-his Patmos—but in his soul he was free .   He was in two places at the same time!!

Part of the human condition is that we don’t have control over everything that affects our lives.   The one thing we have control of is how we cope with the things affecting our lives—-such as was the case with Victor Frankl.

John on the island of Patmos, was in the same circumstances as Frankl.   He had been imprisoned by the emperor—-probably because he was a Christian.   There he was languishing on the island of Patmos, right?   Wrong!   That is not what John says about himself.   Rather he wrote that he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”.   John was in prison, in exile, far from home and loved ones, but he managed to “be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.   In other words, he was in a quite different place and a long way from the island of Patmost.   He was with God through the Holy Spirit on the Lord’s Day and God was showing him about wonderful things to come in God’s Kingdom.

 John was in two different places at the same time—-and so can you be.   You can always be with God, no matter what your life’s circumstances may be.  

  Think about it!  

 

             

 

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Choices

Life is a matter of choices.   There is no way to avoid choosing because not to choose is to make a choice.   Victor Frankl, a German Jew and psychologist, was placed in one of Hitler’s worst concentration camps during World War II.   He wrote after the War, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning,  that the one thing that the concentration camp could not take away from the inmates was their power to choose what attitude they would have.

All of us have been created by God and given the power and ability to make choices:  We can:

  • Choose to love—rather than hate.
  • Choose to smile—rather than frown
  • Choose to build—rather than destroy
  • Choose to keep going—-rather than quit.
  • Choose to heal—-rather than wound.
  • Choose to give—rather than grasp.
  • Choose to act—rather than delay.
  • Choose to forgive—rather than to blame.
  • Choose to hope—rather than despair.

Each of us bear the consequences of our choices.   In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves by our choices.   The process never ends until we die; and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

In addition, our choices affect others in various ways.   We can see this as we examine the events of “Holy Week”—–the final week that Jesus was in Jerusalem before his crucifixion, and the choices that were made and their consequences:

  • Jesus made choice.  He chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of peace in direct contradiction to Pontius Pilate riding into Jerusalem the same week with horses and soldiers. He chose to teach in the temple and to challenge the religious authorities of the day—the priests and scribes who cooperated with Rome to rule the Jews and extend their power and their wealth.   Jesus  chose to drive the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals out of the Temple.  This choice cost him his life. His actions in “cleansing the temple” were an economic threat to the power of the chief priests and scribes who profited greatly from the business in the Temple.  At this time they began to plot how they could kill Jesus.
  • Judas made a choice.    We have no way of knowing what the motives were for his choice, but he chose to betray Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver.   It was a choice he later bitterly regretted, but once made it could not be undone.  He ended his own life because of that choice.
  • Peter made a choice.  While waiting by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter was identified by a servant girl as “the man that was with Jesus”.   Peter chose to deny that he even knew Jesus three times.   Peter went out and wept bitterly after he made the choice..
  • Pontius Pilate made a choice.    Although his examination of Jesus found no reason for him to be executed,  Pilate  chose to give in to the demands of the religious authorities and the mob of people they had gathered to support them..     Matthew tells us that he took water and washed his hands saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.   It is your responsibility”.    His choice led to the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
  • The religious authorities and their supporters made a choice.  Pilate offered to release one person.   Barabbas or Jesus was the choice they were asked to make.   They chose to crucify Jesus and to release Barabbas.

We also have choices.   On what basis do we make them?

  • Do we, like Jesus, choose according to what we discern is God’s will?
  • Do we like Judas, choose what is most monetarily rewarding to us immediately?
  • Do we, like Peter, let the fear of the crowd influence our choice?
  • Do we, like the chief priests, choose to maintain our power and our economic well-being even if someone dies?
  • Do we, like Pontius Pilate, choose to “wash our hands” of the choice and let others make our choice for us?

 Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethesemane the night before his death that the “cup” of his looming crucifixion might be removed from him.    He ended the prayer with, “nevertheless, not my will but yours Father.”    

Choices made on the  basis of prayer and the discernment of God’s will  will be  good choices!

Making the Most of our Time

Most of us are so busy reliving the past or being anxious about the future that we miss living in the present.   We would do well to heed the simple advice of the old song:   “Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus! And tomorrow’s still out of sight.   Teach me today, show me the way, One day at a time.”

We all know that the present is all we really have.   What is past is past and we can do nothing to change it, but only learn from it.   what is in the future is unknown, as is our own future unknown.  What we have is today!

And every “today” offers us choices as we live out our lives.   The choices must be made in the “present”, but they help determine how we deal with our past and what our future might be.

Victor Frankl, a German Jew who was placed in one of Hitler’s worst concentration camps during World War Two and yet survived, wrote that the one thing that a concentration camp could not take away from the inmates was their power to choose what attitude they would have.   We have been created by God and given the power to make choices as human beings from the beginning of creation.   Regardless of  what happens , we can, for example:

  • Choose to love—rather than to hate.
  • Choose to smile—rather than frown.
  • Choose to build—-rather than destroy.
  • Choose to persevere—-rather than quit.
  • Choose to praise—rather than criticize.
  • Choose to heal—rather than wound.
  • Choose to give—rather than grasp.
  • Choose to act—-rather than delay.
  • Choose to forgive—rather than blame and hold a grudge
  • Choose to pray—rather than despair

All of the above and much more are choices we are faced with, often on a daily basis.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:   “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes”.  In the long run, we shape our lives aand we shape ourselves and help shape our world by these choices.

The choices we make are ultimately our responsibility, but we have wisdom available to us if we place our trust in God and pray for God’s guidance for our lives, acknowledging that we do not know it all but stand in need of God’s loving wisdom.

That wisdom is there for us when we pray words such as Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.   The courage to change the things I can change; and the wisdom to know one from the other.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words of advice to the churches in Ephesus :  Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.   (Ephesians 5:15-16)

The original Greek translated “making the most of our time”  expresses the idea of “redeeming the time—i.e. purchasing, buying up, and then setting free the time, as slaves could do during ancient times.  As we redeem our time from the domination of the past and the fear of the future  we are better able to live our lives fully in the present!  That “Makes the Most of our Time.”