Limitations of Prayer

Prayer isn’t magic.

Much of life is predetermined.

The longest living land animals the bowhead whale can live for 200 years.

While the Mayfly only live for 24 hours.

The oldest birds can live to 60 odd years.

These are parrots, vultures, albatrosses, and eagles.

With conservation efforts trees will live for thousands of years.

These are trees like Prometheus, Unnamed Great Basin Bristlecone Pine, and the Jurupa Oak.

Another long lasting tree is the Sequoia of northern California and Oregon that can live up to 2700 years.

Prayer can’t change the lifespans of flora and fauna.

 

Other conditions are daunting concerning how species live.

Many species rarely approach their maximum age.

Some animals and birds die because of a high infant mortality rate.

Others die because of diseases, predators, and bad weather.

Many lifespans are cut short because of habitat destruction

And competition for food and shelter

 

Religious believers must therefore know how and for what to pray.

There are known conditions that can’t change that come and go like the seasons.

But they can pray to their deity or deities knowing that some conditions in life are the way they are.

Yes, we can pray for relief from the hazards that impact all living things.

Eternal Spirit, give us the insight concerning how to pray, and grant us relief from the hazards of earthly living.

Amen

Legacy of American Indians

The first Americans have the distinction of being a people of diversity.  They consisted of more than 500 tribes ranging from the Arctic Circle across the Great Plains to the Eastern Seaboard and known as the Lakota, Cherokee, Navajo, Haida, and other groups.  In the Northeast alone, there were dozens of tribes originating from three main mother groups – Algonquian, Iroquoian, or Siouan.  Around 12,000 to 20,000 years ago Indians came to the Western Hemisphere after having crossed the Bering Strait ice bridge that linked Asia to the Americas.  So, Native Americans are indigenous to the Americas.

The Indians displayed vibrant languages, cultural forms, and their political empowerment varied between tribes.  Some tribes boasted a sophisticated clan system with unique spiritual traditions, music, songs and chants.  Not all adopted to the horse as a primary tool of hunting, but they fished – catching salmon, trout, and sturgeon; farmed – raising indigenous plants, roots, berries, and nuts; hunted – catching deer, elk, bison, antelope, moose, and even caribou; inventing agricultural methods with flourishing crops of corn (maize), beans, and squash.

Tribal architecture flourished.  They made ceramics from clay tempered with sand, potted ceremonial objects, rugs, jewelry, bead works, and baskets of all sorts.  Their trading networks were spread across the whole American continent, and their sovereign authority was invested in cultural and linguistic patterns.

The American Dream

In their own way the Native Americans were living the American dream.  Marco Rubio (b. 1971), a senator from Florida said, “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood.  It isn’t really about becoming rich and famous.  It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that.”  Early Indian tribes exemplified what the American dream was all about by having a diverse culture blessed with simplicity.  Billy Graham (1918–2018), an evangelical Christian evangelist wrote, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”  Our first Americans exemplified this legacy and faith while living off the land.

Joe Baca (b. 1947), a U.S. representative in California said, “Native Americans are the original inhabitants of the land that now constitutes the United States.  They have helped developed the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and separation of powers that form the foundation of the United States government.”   These first Americans were instrumental in proposing fundamental ways of governing by how they were living.

A Legacy Impacted

European diseases – small pox, measles and influenza devastated many Native American communities.  These natives became victims of brutal massacres, murder, and rape that dampened the American spirit.  Native Indians though continued to have rights, and the American government had no authority on Indian land without an act of Congress.  The 19th century witnessed the impounding of Indians to reservations.  Philipp Meyer (b. 1974), an American fiction writer wrote, “When you start to look at the native American history, you realize that very far from being peaceful, morally superior people, Native Americans were not that different from the Europeans.”  Meyer must have been thinking about the atrocities and broken promises committed by America on the American Indians.  Alberto Gonzales (b. 1955), an attorney general of the United States wrote, “I will be the first to admit I am not perfect and I make mistakes.”  The Europeans who settled America were imperfect men and women, and although some critics felt their actions against the American Indians were motivated by power, greed, and religious zeal they surely committed big mistakes.  Despite these atrocities the American Indian culture still exists, and adds to the spiritual richness of the nation.

Thanksgiving for Creation

A pediatric surgeon Bernie Siegel (b. 1932) said, “God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings.  Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements.  Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.”  Inevitably Siegel was putting his trust in mankind to create a perfect world.  But our world is broken because of sin.  Christians believe it will only be transformed when Jesus Christ comes again.  This has been alluded to time and time again in the Old and New Testaments.

How should people navigate this this perfect world?  We have to use our imagination and ask God to guide us to it.  George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), an Irish playwright and critic wrote, “Imagination is the beginning of creation.  You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”  Believers come to know their God by meditating on his Word.  They are touched by God’s divinity, and realize they must seek his forgiveness.

People’s Perception

An actor and producer James Cromwell (b. 1940) said, “Often we are recreating what we think we’re supposed to be as human beings.  What we’ve been told we’re supposed to be, instead of who we authentically are.  The key about creation of full self-expression is to be authentically who you are, to project that.”  Such gift comes by faith.  With this knowledge people walk in godly ways by doing what’s right.

Wise men and women have pondered the role of nature in God’s creative process.  Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936), an Italian dramatist and novelist wrote, “Nature uses human imagination to lift her work of creation to even higher levels.”  With the glorious displays of trees, mountains, and streams in our environment we reflect on the grandiose nature of a loving God.  Our minds and hearts leap in the sublimity of these gracious blessings first imagined in the Garden of Eden.

Testament of Life

Nevertheless life is such a powerful testament of the gifts of God.  An attorney and Freemason Albert Pike (1809–1891) said, “One man is equivalent to all Creation.  One man is a World in miniature.”  People see this phenomenon in God who is all in all.  According to scripture people were born in his image and are spiritually like him.

How can we make a difference in the world?  There might be some confusion about our life’s mission.  A French poet and novelist Victor Hugo (1802–1885) wrote, “One is not idle because one is absorbed.  There is both visible and invisible labor.  To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do.  The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act.  The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation.”  It’s good to remember that everyone works differently.  How could we determine who is working the most?  How do we see the role of contemplation to that of hard labor?  Yet contemplative meditation is necessary for fostering justice, dignity, and peace in our world.

How do you view creation?  Who is ultimately responsible?  Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869–1942), a second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania said, “Jehovah created the earth and therefore it is his by right of creation.”  Every aspect of life which exists is God’s gift to us.  He controls everything, and is the greatest gift of all living, and non-living beings.  We have to always give thanks for his creation.

The Sacred Elephant

For thousands of years

A majestic giant has graced our lands

It’s the gigantic elephant known to all peoples

We find its symbol in India, China, Africa,

And even America, as the Republican Party

 

In India the elephant is known to Buddhists

And Hindus as the god Ganesha –

defender and maintainer of good fortune

China, this symbol brings good luck, protection, and fertility

And in Africa the elephant is the mighty one

Because of its strength and power

 

But this gentle giant that exists in mythology – is patient,

responsible, wise, clever, and smart

In the wild it cares for the herd and offspring

And nestles its young in loving ways

 

Let’s elevate this admirable giant

To a greater place of prominence in our world

For this animal’s symbol continues to grace the earth

With divine, pure, and secular gifts

Depicted in artworks, sculptures, and paintings

 

Indians pay their elephant-god Ganesha homage with gifts

The Chinese sing praises with its happiness

Africans see the elephant like a fortress in the jungle

And Americans embrace this symbol as a political party

By the cartoonist Thomas Nast of Harper’s Weekly magazine

 

 

 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897)

St. Thérèse of Lisieux in her autobiography Story of a Soul translated by John Clarke, taught believers “the little way” of trust and absolute surrender to God.  The first 15 years of her life was spent as a devout Catholic and for nine years she lived a cloistered life as a Carmelite nun.  She wrote the story of her brief life in ink with no thought that it would ever be published.  On Good Friday, April 13, 1896 she suffered her first hemoptysis (coughing up blood due to a lung hemorrhage).

The facsimile edition of her manuscript was difficult to read because of capitalizations, underlined words, size, position of slant letters, with occasional corrections.  Students of hers were still able to locate texts in the original manuscript.  The translated version however offered clear themes of love, abandonment to God’s mercy, and mission in the church.  She saw the way of spiritual childhood as the path which led to eternal life.

Manuscript & Readers

In fits and starts, St. Thérèse wrote in her spare time while she was ill.  The manuscript first published in 1898 in a highly edited version was praised by its readers.  It became a spiritual classic, read by millions, and was translated from French into other languages.  For over 20 years, it was a best seller.  Story of a Soul was originally the collection of three different manuscripts addressed to different persons in 1895, 1896, and 1897.

St. Thérèse’s legacy to the world was her personal message about being like “little ones.”  Her teachings came out of human experiences.  To accomplish these tasks she ascended to the summit of heroic virtue – what she described as “my vocation is love.”  She believed we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and viewed God as the keeper of “little ones.”

Beatification & Canonization

During the process of beatification and canonization Pope Benedict XV, and Pius X1 endorsed her beliefs.  They hoped her teachings would be brought to the attention of the world.  St. Thérèse, who was considered the greatest saint of modern times frequently meditated on the Gospels and the Old Testament.  Her work has remained a source of deep religious inspiration, and believers think it came about through Divine Providence.  The centennial celebration of her death was in 1996 – 1997.  Story of a Soul’s translator, John Clarke, was a devotee to this “Little Flower.”