What Does St. Patrick’s Day Have To Do With Christianity?

Kiss me, I’m Irish!

Courtesy of morguefile.com

Wear green or you’ll get pinched.

Silly traditions associated with today, March 17. I am Irish (Scotch-Irish) through my maternal grandmother.

I don’t wear green; it makes me look half-dead.

As I helped my grandchildren choose clothing that ensured they wouldn’t be pinched black and blue today, my mind wandered to traditions and how they manifest over time. Many traditions come from a Biblical perspective, including St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on this day in 461. He brought Christianity to Ireland, so the Irish have celebrated this day for over 1000 years. That means this is a religious holiday.

Wait! What? But people have drunken parades and behave frivolously on this day. Yep. That’s true.

The original holiday, the Feast of St. Patrick, allowed the Irish to ignore their Lent observances for the afternoon. It gave them a break from fasting, but by the next day, they returned to their Lent observations.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the religious aspect of this day. That may or may not be true everywhere, but I don’t recall any connection to the church with this holiday.

Why? Maybe it’s because the holiday is not a God-ordained holiday:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? Matthew 15:3

In this verse from Matthew, Jesus and his disciples failed to wash their hands before eating. The Pharisees thought they had Jesus in the wrong and pointed out their lack of faithful behavior. The problem? God didn’t create the hand-washing commandment. Man did. Jesus pointed this out and took it a step further, implying they followed their traditions over God’s.  Oops!

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the spread of God’s word, if that’s what we’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with feasting, or wearing green, or giving a neighborly kiss…if that’s what we’re doing. But, when it steps on the toes of our faith, when it overrides the commands of God, we’ve got a problem.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only man-made tradition focused on our faith. Look at Easter and Christmas. God never commanded us to celebrate the birth of Christ. He did command us to celebrate the resurrection EVERY day, especially Sunday. It’s not a once-a-year celebration.

If you examine these well-known holidays, you can see how far we’ve strayed from the faithful plans of the people who first chose to celebrate them. When man establishes something, it’s easier to lose sight of the original focus.

Can commandments from God disintegrate? Absolutely! Just read the Old Testament, and you will see it over and over again. Still, thanks to the timelessness of the word of God, the people always returned to true faith.

So, today, if you wear green or kiss someone who’s Irish, it’s ok. Maybe, while you’re at it, give thanks to God that you can celebrate the life of a man who brought Christianity to Ireland. Just remember, St. Patrick is not who we should celebrate. The amazing story he brought to Ireland is the point.

Courtesy of morguefile.com

Where Is Your Treasure?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.lovecloud Matthew 6:21

I’ve spent a good bit of time wondering what to say today. Circumstances with my daughter have changed since last week’s post. She stands at a precipice and must put her words into action. Although, she claims a desire to fix her life so she can be with her children, I’m waiting to see if she will take even the first step. The question is what is in her heart? Where is her treasure?

If she can find treasure in restoration with her family, she has a chance. If she allows the world to tempt her with addiction and poor choices, her treasure will not be with us.

She is the only one who has control over where her heart leads her.

She is the only one who has control over which decision she makes.

She must navigate the obstacles, not us.

She must prove her treasure resides with her children by her actions.

Many people don’t understand why a parent doesn’t jump in and help a grown child who asks for help. We could, but we’ve been down that road. If a child who is visibly doing things to straighten out their life asks for help, that’s one thing. If the child continues to blame others for their problems, continues to believe their parents must help them, it’s a totally different story.

We’re not heartless. We care. We love her. We must let her choose where her treasure is.

 

Strength Through Hardships

If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.butterfly

In case you didn’t know it, this is not a Bible verse. Most people disagree on the source of this quote, attributions  differing from a Chinese proverb to Maimonides to Anne Isabella Ritchey. No matter its source, it shares a wisdom that we can find reflected in this passage in Matthew:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4:18-20

They left their nets and followed Jesus, seeking to fish for the souls of people. In Luke’s telling of this story, we learn that Jesus first asked Simon and Andrew to let him use their boat as a place to stand away from the gathering crowds as he spoke to them. After he finished speaking, this happened:

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7

Even though he just changed their immediate income needs, they chose to follow him. Why? Because he could show them how to save people rather go fishing every day. Which choice was harder to make? If we’re honest, following Jesus had to be a difficult decision. The Bible tells us that they followed Jesus willingly, but I bet they thought about the hardships this might cause their families and themselves. Yet they went. It was the better choice and changed their lives forever.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my daughter and how to recognize a prodigal, concluding that she is not a prodigal, yet, because she still expects something from me and others. She’s unwilling to face her struggles on her own.

When we raise our children, we want to give them everything. As a single parent, I couldn’t, but that doesn’t mean I made wise decisions. There were times I tried to eliminate her struggles because I knew the pains (I imagined) she had suffered due to my poor choices early in life.  Did I do the right thing?

I’ll never know. She did experience hardships, and definitely is doing so now. Were there ones I should have allowed her to face that I stepped in and removed the obstacles too soon?

I’m reminded of the butterfly and its cocoon. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ve included it below:

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it. The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress! The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

But neither happened!

The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly…

If we remove the hardships, we remove the opportunities for a person to thrive. By no means did I, or could I, remove all of the obstacles in my daughter’s life. She had plenty, and she is living many more now. I’ll never know if there was one I should have left for her to stumble over. What I do know is, unlike the butterfly, she can still become strong.

We must let our loved ones struggle, or they will never fly.  This is not ever easy to do as the observer.

Something to think about as you go throughout your day.