Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christians or Gladiators

Giorgio, a devout Roman Catholic, was our guide when my mom and I visited the famed Vatican City. He did a great job leading the tour and his passion for the subject matter was evident. One of the areas we visited was St. Peters Square, a large public area (which is actually round in shape) situated directly outside of St. Peter’s Basillica. In the round square is an area where, every Wednesday, the Pope addresses an audience.

I got a chuckle when Giorgio described this event. He said, “On Wednesday, thousands of Christians will gather here to see the Pope.” Then he asked, “However, once the Pope appears and begins his journey around the square, can you guess how many Christians will still be here?” He then answered his own question, “None…the Christians will disappear and the square will be filled with gladiators, attacking each other in order to get closer to the Pope!”

His description, although humorous to a degree, unfortunately describes a lot of us who are Christians, yet quickly forget to be Christ-like when we put our wants and needs before those of others. Think of the way so many of us behave during the Christmas season. I’ve seen more than one fish-bearing automobile racing through a parking lot in order to cut off another vehicle attempting to pull into a good parking spot.

So, as we make our way through each hectic day, let’s not forget whose name we represent, remembering these words from Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Left My Heart in San Gimignano

Pretty much my whole life I have dreamed of going to Italy. Maybe it’s because I grew up in New York living next door to a wonderful Sicilian family. Maybe it’s because of my love for Italian food and culture. This adoration of all things Italy even led to my choosing L’Italiano as my foreign language choice in college even thought Spanish would have been a much more practical option.

Finally, after 36 years of dreaming about it, I was able to travel to the “Old Country” and experience Italy, thanks to a wonderful birthday gift from my mom. And, I was not disappointed one bit. Italy was everything I had imagined and then some. At one point during the trip, I found myself standing on the highest part of a tower on the edge of a village that was built 250 years before Christ, overlooking the breathtaking Tuscan landscape. A harpist softly played a melody in the olive grove below and I could literally feel my heart aching for that moment to last forever. There are still times that I look at pictures from the trip and feel that heart-ache all over again. It is a longing that just won’t go away.

I was having one of those moments the other day when I realized that it’s probably a good thing the Bible is very limited in it’s description of heaven. In the past I have been frustrated that God has not revealed more about what we can look forward to when we finally make it home. But, I think I may understand why He didn’t. If my heart can ache over another place on this planet, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I ever got a real glimpse into heaven only to have to continue living here on earth. I’m not sure I’d be able to go on.

In Corinthians 2:9, Paul writes about how little we really know about Heaven, “Corinthians 2:9, “…but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’"

The scriptures tell us just enough about heaven to know that it is a place we can look forward to, a place deserving of our longings. However, there is so much here on earth that needs to be accomplished before we get there. I think if we really understood what heaven would be like, we might never get our heads out of the clouds to take care of the earthly business at hand.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Without Ceasing

I hate exercise. I always have. I have never understood people who say they just looove to spend time at the gym. I don’t like pain or sweat or pain mixed with sweat. Yet, I fully understand how important it is to get physical activity each day, so I look for ways to sneak in exercise to my daily routine. For example, every time I brush my teeth and every time I sit at a red light, I tighten my abs. When I’m in the kitchen waiting for something to cook in the microwave, I do push-ups leaning on the kitchen counter or I walk in place. There are lots of other ways to add activity to your day: park your car far away when you go shopping, take the steps instead of the elevator, march in place while folding laundry, dance with your kids!

Prayer is another thing that I have to “work in” to my daily comings and goings. I really value having an open line of communication with God and I find that when I don’t regularly use it, God feels further and further away. Don’t get me wrong, I know that quiet time with God at a set time each day is valuable, but I have to admit I’m pretty undisciplined about regularly having that time. So, I try to pray throughout the day. Here are some easy ways to do this. Before you put the kids on the bus or drop them off at school, pray about the day ahead. Do the same on your way to work, praying for strength to face whatever challenges that may come your way. When doing housework, praise God for the blessing of having a house to clean and pray for your household. At the grocery store or cooking dinner, praise him for your daily bread. When you are lying in bed at night, pray for your spouse. It’s not important how you do it or where you do it, the only thing that matters is that you keep that conversation with God flowing.

The concept of praying throughout the day is not a new one. Remember Paul’s words to the Thessalonians? “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.