Praying St. Patrick’s Breastplate

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Religious holidays tend to get so buried by superficialities that we forget their meaning. We have to fight for the meaning of Christmas. But there is a rich history and tradition behind almost every holiday, one which can breathe new life into our reach towards God.

Take March 17, or St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not about luck, beer, the color green, or mischievous small legendary para-humans.

You know the handful of pioneering saints who carried the name of Jesus on such vast scale that we sit envious in church hearing about them? St. Patrick was one of them. Enslaved for six years by Irish pirates, Patrick returned years later to Ireland as a missionary. Through him, God transmitted his gospel throughout that island nation, making Patrick one of the pivotal figures in the Christianity’s spread to Europe.

There is a prayer that’s attributed to this fifth-century saint. Though this prayer is often recited by those who follow the Catholic faith, there is little in it to which Christian need not adhere.

The second to last verse, in particular, is an expression of such profound union with God, proclaiming the speaker so utterly surrounded by Christ, that I am left speechless at its holiness:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

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Why We Can’t Choose to Walk Away from Politics

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I know. You don’t want to hear about it anymore.

It fills the airwaves. It dominates every newspaper and evening broadcast you watch. It’s creeping around every corner in the form of conversations amongst your co-workers. Your response is usually a weird, contradictory blend of “What could I do?” and “Don’t get me started”, and you keep quiet because you’re not sure which of those aftertastes you’ll walk away from an argument with.

Presidential politics.

Ugh.

Especially this election cycle. What a buzzkill.

It makes you wish desperately for the arrival of mid-November, so we can be done with it all for four years. Well, three. Like Christmas, the season seems to start earlier each time.

We each have a vote. But being one vote amongst three hundred million doesn’t exactly imbue us with a feeling of real power. Add the fact that our actual influence in Washington has been slowly sapped, and it’s understandable to feel not just helpless, but mad. An emotion that has either dominated the minds of some and frozen others out entirely.

Am I the only one who thinks we need a reorientation? Like, yesterday?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-38)

Ah. Of course. You couldn’t ask for a better reorientation than the fact that God is our anchor. Nothing can separate us from his love – or from his hand.

But…now what? What do we do with that holy strength that has been made ours?

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The Uncertainty of Life and the Certainty of Death: A Tribute to Joey Feek

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A few months ago, I started work as a legal assistant at a law firm, where we represent a lot of folks near death. Occasionally, I’ll be poring through a file and find a Last Will and Testament staring back at me, marked with that austere font associated with death. (I really don’t care what’s written on my tombstone – just write it in Comic Sans. Lighten the mood a little.) Many of the clients with whom I converse aren’t in the greatest of moods. They’re contemplating their mortality for the first time, and it’s scaring them, throwing them off their game, making them impatient and grasping.

They’re looking for something on which to seize.

I’m reminded of an article I read recently, lamenting that modern worship songs rarely speak of death, as the old hymns did. It made me think. Those were the days the world respected God. Now it thinks it’s evolved past the need for him, but I don’t buy it. Death will usually make anyone pause. A high-rise window, a worrisome lump, or a twist of the wheel is sometimes all that stands between us and the unknown. There are no atheists in a foxhole, and all that.

The world is looking for something on which to seize.

Enter Joey Feek.

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Thanking God for the Wilderness?

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Whaaaaaaaaa?”

The rebellious, proud district of my heart was sounding an alarm of protest. I’d just listened to a song recommended by a close friend, and the first line was, “Thank you for the wilderness.”

But my gut reaction wasn’t to thank anyone for the wilderness. I wanted to get out of it!

Like all of us, my life has carried its share of challenges. I’ve had many arguments with God about it. I’ve had many arguments with myself over whether it’s really God causing these hardships or simply me not being wise or prayerful enough. Of course, I’ve prayed fervently for lusher ground.

And that last part is a big one. One fears that if he accepts the wilderness, God will prolong it.

As if I really had any say in the matter.

But another part of me, one which is growing louder and stronger each year, asks instead, “God, what have you accomplished in this wilderness?”

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