Category Archives: Devotions

We all know God loves us, but far too often the stresses, anxieties and problems in life crowd Him out of our view. Here find a moment to re-focus and remember how incredible it is that God loves us, and what it means to live in His presence, in the peace that passes all understanding…

If you don’t see it at first…. that’s okay?

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking o that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.  Colossians 1:9-12 HCSB

890    You are distracted in prayer. Try to avoid distractions, but don’t worry if in spite of everything you’re still distracted. Don’t you see how in ordinary life even the most considerate children play with everything around them, and often pay no attention to what their father says? This does not imply a lack of love, or respect: it’s the weakness and littleness proper to a child. Look then: you are a child before God.

As I go through my devotional reading each day, I often highlight what I am reading. As I try to bring everything together, sometimes they click, and I see the instant connection, and sometimes they seem as alike as… I can’t think of anything diverse enough!

Today’s two quotes above fall into that latter group.  They both resonated with me.  The first from the perspective of this is a great goal for anyone who ministers to anyone.  From pastors and priests to Sunday School teachers, to those who work behind the scenes, to the little old ladies who can hardly do anything in the world’s eyes, but are great assets – because they pray! Oh, how we need them to model their persistent prayer so that we can follow their example!

We need to pray, as St Paul did, for the people we pray for, even as we pray that their bodies be healed, that their problems at home and work are resolved, we need to pray that they are filled with the knowledge of God’s desire, that they would have the wisdom and spiritual understanding that leads to the strength to work in this world in a way that pleases God.

And I guess that is where the second reading comes into the picture.  For even if someone is praying for me, that I would become all this, that I would realize what St Josemaria said.

I am still a child. I will still get distracted in my prayer time,  I can try to avoid the distractions (as you can as well) and we should!  But there are times where we are still His kids, we still are weak, though in Him strong.   The distractions don’t mean we are not his, no longer blessed, no longer His holy people.

We are His children.

Sometimes I get ticked at myself when something distracts me for a moment in prayer, or in church.  When I remember I have to write to someone or call someone when I realize I forgot to do this or that.  I’ve learned to turn off the phone (most of the time I don’t remember) or try to ignore the messages that come.  But I don’t always… and it annoys me and I deal with guilt about it.  Shouldn’t I have the ability to endure like the saints of old?  Shouldn’t I have the disposition to do what is right?  Shouldn’t I, by force of will, be able to free myself from all, so that I may concentrate on God?

Yes, and no. (even now I was distracted! Sigh! )

St Josemaria’s words help me realize that the patience that Paul prays for can include patience with myself.  They help remember I am a still a kid, and God will cause the growth.  Do what I can to eliminate the distractions, but also realize that the name or face that comes to mind, may have been put there by the Spirit.  And that God will be patient as well, as I grow in my appreciation for His presence and love.

Of course, if we were all mature, would there be a need to pray for each other as Paul prayed for the church?  No…

So call yourself back, remember you are in His presence…and rejoice in His love!

 

P.S>  if you don’t have people praying for you – let me know… and I will make sure you are!  (

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2059-2063). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Can God’s Glory Be Seen in His Broken Church?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day

11  “Israel was once like a well-trained young cow, ready and willing to thresh grain. But I decided to put a yoke on her beautiful neck and to harness her for harder work. I made Judah pull the plow and Israel pull the harrow. 12  I said, ‘Plow new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to me will produce. It is time for you to turn to me, your LORD, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’ 13  But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies. Hosea 10:11-13a (TEV)

2  God shines from Zion, the city perfect in its beauty. Psalm 50:2 (TEV)

892    How good it is to be a child! When a man asks a favor, his request must be backed by an account of his achievements. When it is a child who asks—since children have no achievements—it is enough for him to say: I am a son of such and such a man. Ah, Lord—(tell him with all your soul)—I am a child of God!

One of my devotional used the italics part of the first quote, along with the second quote this morning.

Set apart from the rest it sounds awesome,

It is time for you to turn to me, your LORD, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’

But when you include the context, it becomes a completely different matter.  The offer of God’s mercy and bless, now rejected, testifies against the people of God. It robs them of hope, it cries out that they are judged, and condemned. It is what they, and similarly, we deserve.

Yet it is out of the same people of God, that the psalmist recognizes God’s glory in, and the glory impacting the rest of the d.  The glory bursts forth from us, the very people who plant evil and have to deal with the consequences?

How can God ‘s glory be seen in us?  How can we be described as perfect in our beauty?

It is a question for today that we must deal with, for many need to know the answer.

I think part of it is learning to ask God for a favor, just like a child would.  Without thought of what we are owed because we have achieved this or that level or perfection.  Just a simple request to our Father.  A request that is answered.

Heavenly Father, clean us, your children up. Take care of us. Fix our brokenness. Help!

It is what God sought of the people in Hosea’s writings. Let’s work together, let’s me yoke you together with Jesus, and the blessings that He pours out upon us, the harvest itself will be beyond our ability to dream up.

The more you are hurt, the more you doubt, the more we need to learn to approach God in this way, knowing we are His children.

God is with you… He is your eternal Father, who loves you…

Ask.. and you shall receive..seek Him and you will find Him… for always He is here.

God’s peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2067-2070). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Longing for God: What ministry should foster in us!

William first night in real bedDevotional Thought for the Day:

8 Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. 9 I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.  Isaiah 26:8-9  HCSB

919    By calling you to be an apostle, our Lord has reminded you, so that you will never forget it, that you are a child of God.

Today is the 9th anniversary of my son moving from his crib to his bed.  Or at least the “on this day” photo app told me it is!  The picture shows him lying peacefully in bed, his three friends lying beside him.

What before had been a bundle of nerves, worried about falling the 4 inches to the mat covered floor. We reminded him we were just down the hall, that we could hear him, that he would safe, that all would be well.

That even if he fell, we would be there, to comfort him, to pick him back up, to put in back in place.  We were there. As we had been, just a few feet down the hall.

That is the kind of reminder we need form God.  That He will always be there, that He will help us and comfort us when fall, helping us back up into place. That He will provide the type of intimate, loving care that a parent provides for their scared and hurting child.

Even when the child is a grown up, one sent by God to reveal him to the world, or to our neighbor. For we are all sent, even as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so He sends us.

All of us.

And He will be there to pick us up, to comfort and care for us.

And eventually, we grow to be dependent upon Him, to long for His presence, knowing that the righteousness and injustice we see cause us anxiety and stress us out. We need Him, just like our children need us.  TO calm our fears, to being our ansiety burdened hearts to know peace. To assure us that He is still God, our Father.

We need Him,, and we need to learn He is there.. and as He sends us out into the world, to reveal Him to others, we will find His presence more and more.

Lord, help us to see ourselves as your kids, the kids whom you love, and care for, whom you protect and bandage up and heal. Lord, help us to long for your presence, even as a child longs for his parents.  Thank you!  Amen†

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2136-2137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Burning out between God and Mankind

Future and a HopeDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a laughing-stock all day long, they all make fun of me. 8  For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim, ‘Violence and ruin!’ For me, Yahweh’s word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long. 9  I would say to myself, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more,’ but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it. Jeremiah 20:7-9 (NJB)

The prayerful persons are doubly seduced, by God and by people.
On the one hand, they cannot do without God because they need to constantly look for Him as they know that they are beloved and wanted by Him, nor can they do without the people because they feel the need to serve them as they see in them the face of God.
The prophet Jeremiah felt this experience to the core.

I started writing this blog when I came across both readings in my devotions last week.

The first is a verse I’ve come to know all too well.  The complaint of Jeremiah, that somehow God tricked him into ministry, that He seduces us, that He deceives us into this work where we get caught between God and mankind.

By the way, this is not just a pastoral issue, but an issue for everyone who ministers to other people. Elders, Sunday School teachers, parents, those who teach Bible Studies, we all find this challenge as we seek to point people to God, as we walk alongside them on their journey, as we see them struggle with sin, and with the narcissism that affects us all.

I love how Pope Francis describes it, we feel the need to serve them as we see in them the face of God.  Despite their brokenness, despite their sin (and ours!), we see in them the image of Christ Jesus, and we know we have to help them see Jesus.

Sometimes that is a burden that is tiring and seems unending. Sometimes it seems like they will never listen, or at least keep the memory of what they heard for even a day.

There are days the weariness gets to be such a burden that you want to quit, you don’t want to speak about God again.  Not even think about Him, Jeremiah determines.

It is impossible, and I think Pope Francis tells us why.

Not only are we burdened to do something about the sin and brokenness we see, we are likewise burdened to encounter God ourselves. We need to know we are wanted in this relationship we have with Him, we are loved!  Despite the effort, it takes to clean us up, He still wants us with Him, He still loves us.

That love burns within us, it changes everything, in our lives. It is the fire that burns within, the love of God who created us in HIs image, He restores that image as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Jesus.

And if he can do that to you and I, surely he can do that to those we minister to, those we serve, those whose lives we weep over.

And so like Jeremiah, we enter another week, looking God, serving those He is calling to His side, helping them to see God at work in their lives, too.  And know this, count on this promise, revealed to us by the apostle Paul.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you j will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   Phil. 1:6-7 HCSB

 

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 257). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The unusual strength we need…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
38  And he said to them, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 (TEV)

56    Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.

We live a life that is challenging, that is complicated, and when we are doing right in one person’s eyes, we are doing wrong in another’s view.  If we forgo the former, we are criticized, if we play by the latter’s rules, we are judged and perhaps even condemned.

Very few are wise enough to navigate these harsh waters that we find ourselves in, yet our minds tell us we must.  And so we screw up, sometimes critically, unable to balance all the things in the adult world.

We aren’t the first with this problem, see the writings of the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul.

I’ve always thought the answer would be found in wisdom, the application of the intelligence God has given us. Now into my 50’s, I wonder if that is achievable,  As St. Mark records of Jesus, we desire to do what is right (just and fair, ) Our spirit resonates with what is right, we are so willing to do it, but we fail.

I find some help here in the words of St Josemaria this morning, that it is not our mind that provides us with the answer, Our mind, our wisdom, and intellect, has to be humbled and broken.  It must submit to Christ, be entrusted to His guidance.  And it is in this discipline that the fruit comes forth, as our faith becomes the childlike dependence on God that will always sustain us.

This isn’t easy, it requires strength and a focus that needs to be crafted, It requires that our souls learn patience, so as to temper the mind.  It requires our hearts be comforted, that the anxiety which often compromises our intellect be stilled.

This is not possible by our own strength and merit.

We need the Spirit, we need the loving, strong guidance of the Spirit who cleanses us of sin, revives and renews us.  The Holy Spirit causes us to look with awe at Jesus, our savior, and Lord.  And as we do, we become more childlike in our faith.  more willing to accept God’s directions, more willing to depend upon Him.

This is our hope, this work the Spirit is doing in us, this hard work that is truly a blessing, for it testifies that God is at work in our lives and that He cares for us.

Heavenly Father, please help us become childlike in our dependence on You!  Continue to pour our your Spirit upon us, disciplining us, that our heart, soul, and mind would be Yours, and reflect the glory of Your love ot our lost and broken world.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1979). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Nourishment the LORD has Given YOU! A sermon John 6:22-35

church at communion 2

The Nourishment the LORD has Given YOU!
John 6:22-35

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you close, like the irresistible aroma of a good meal draws you to eat!

Causing Hunger

I have a goal for this sermon.

I want to cause a reaction in you, one that you can’t get passed.

I want to make you hungry, very hungry.

Even more hungry than walking through the trader joe’s parking lot does, when the breeze is blowing from Wood Ranch.  Hungrier than William gets when thinking about toasted ravioli’s.

I want to make you hungrier than you have ever been.

Hungrier for the righteousness of God, desiring that you would find something to satisfy your hunger, and then realizing what God really gives to you, as we celebrate His love, as He celebrates our return to His family…and invites us to a feast where He has set.

The brokenness addressed
          They were hungry

In John’s gospel, the people of God were chasing after Jesus.  He had sent the apostles out to do miracles, He had fed over 5000 families, He had done so much, and the people needed Him.  SO they chased him around the lake.

As they find Him, Jesus tells them that they are only doing this, they only want to be with Him, because He feeds them. That is so like so many of us, who follow God about, even diligently searching for Him, but doing so with the intent of gaining what we can.  They wanted bread and fish, we might want the perfect family, the perfect home, the perfect job.

And so we treat God as if He serves a grand buffet, taking only the stuff that we like that He serves us. And leaving blessings behind because we don’t think cauliflower or sushi is a blessing!

They wanted to perform God’s work!

The do the same thing with the next part of the conversation with Jesus.  Let us do God’s work, give us the power to do it, and they completely miss His answer, just as we do.“Believe in me,” he asks.

“Trust me.”

“Depend on me, for I am the One whom God has sent to care for you.”

This doesn’t mean to just sit back, thinking God will do everything for you. It means far more than that… but it still means He is leading, guiding, empowering. Too often, we want to do what we want to do to serve God, to take this role, to have this ability.  Here, God, I will serve you best in New England, or if not there, anywhere but the desert, or back in the suburbs or… as an elder, or helping this person, or…

We want to do great things for you Lord, if only… we are in charge!

They wanted a miracle….

They even tried to bargain with Jesus, indicating that they would trust Him, that they would depend on Him if he gave them a miracle like the one Moses did!

In other words, they are back to the beginning, the reason they sought Him out, to gain from Him what they wanted.

Heck, they even forgot what Jesus had done, how He fed them all… just a few days before.

Not that any of us would ever forget what God has done for us, or is doing for us, would we?

The meal to welcome Home sinners!

It is often said that the question is never the question, that the request is never what is really want the person wants, or needs.  It is true here, as Jesus begins these lessons about His giving His body and blood for us.

What He is doing is answering the real questions we need to be answered.

When we seek Him, asking Him to provide what we want, He gives us Himself, food for our very souls.

When we want to do God’s work, there He is guiding us, empowering us, ensuring we know we are not alone…

And when we are hungry, here is the amazing gift, the Body, and blood of our Lord, which satisfies our hunger for justice, for making things right.

That is what we do here, at this altar, this is what we need, more than anything.  To experience the love of God, which is beyond our comprehension.  It is not a place where we have come, having done all perfectly. It is where we come, when we are broken, when we aren’t sure we belong, when we are the prodigal who comes back, and is surprised by the feast thrown for him.

That is what the early Lutherans were amazed at, as they wrote in our confessions;

19 9. We believe, teach, and confess that no genuine believer, no matter how weak he may be, as long as he retains a living faith, will receive the Holy Supper to his condemnation, for Christ instituted this Supper particularly for Christians who are weak in faith but repentant, to comfort them and to strengthen their weak faith.[1]

That is why Jesus says He, the true bread, give life to the world.  He does exactly that, as we die with Him on the cross, and are raised to a new life, a life with Him!

He gives life where life is shattered.  He lays down His life to be broken so ours can be made right,

Made intact.

If you are broken, you belong here.

if you’ve sinned, and you want to start over, here is that place.

This is the time.

If you don’t think you belong, that is to be left to God, who judges us as being as righteous as Jesus, the one the Father sent to make it so,

and He did….

He is the bread of life….

Your life.

May you always hunger for Him and hear His invitation to come and feast.  AMEN!

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 484). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Necessity of the Lord’s Supper

Altar with communionDevotional thoughts of the day:
17  But in the following instructions, I cannot praise you. For it sounds as if more harm than good is done when you meet together. 18  First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. 19  But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized! 20  When you meet together, you are not really interested in the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 (NLT2)

19 9. We believe, teach, and confess that no genuine believer, no matter how weak he may be, as long as he retains a living faith, will receive the Holy Supper to his condemnation, for Christ instituted this Supper particularly for Christians who are weak in faith but repentant, to comfort them and to strengthen their weak faith.

If liturgy is to survive or even be completely renewed, it is essential that the Church be rediscovered. I add: if people’s estrangement is to be overcome, if they are to find again their true identity, it is indispensable that they find again the Church that is not a misanthropic institution, but the new “we” in which alone the “I” can acquire its foundation and its security.

Paul’s admonish to the church in Corinth is one I think we need to hear today.  It is neither easy nor would it make sense to most Christians today. 

They might see the admonition as one solely concerned with what I call hospitality, the reason Paul admonishes them is that they don’t wait for each other and that the taking of the Lord’s Supper becomes a testimony to their division and their lack of love for each other. I think it is far more severe than that, for the Lord’s supper is not a simple meal.

It is given to us, this blessed Body and Blood of Christ, to comfort us, to strengthen us, to heal our very souls, to quench the doubts and empower a trust in Him that would result in seeing the world changed. 

And yet we neglect it.  We put it off and only celebrate it on occasion, or we rush out of church after it, unaware of what we have received, or if aware, minimizing it.  We don’t see it as what establishes us, as a “we” (the people of God) and gives a real identity to the “I”.

By the way, in regards to Pope Benedict’s use of misanthropic, I had to look the word up.  It is the exact opposite of philanthropic.  It is to hate mankind, a charge we have to take seriously, for I do believe many see us that way.  It shouldn’t be accurate; but many see us as trying to oppress mankind, rather than freeing them from guilt and shame. In many ways. our poor and unbalanced proclamation of sin and the gospel does this, as we close off communion to only those in the club, or make people think they have to be “good” enough or have a perfect understanding of theology in order to receive the gifts of God.

It is about His ministry, His welcoming us home, it is the feast for prodigals, the feast He throws, giving all of Himself, to lift us up, to nourish us, to help us realize we are united to Him.

It is there, at the altar, that the liturgy goes from being an ordeal to become a blessing of renewal.  It is there our hope is renewed, our lives transformed, our hearts and souls healed. 

It is what those outside the church need to see evidence of so that they too will be drawn into union with Jesus, through His death and resurrection. It is what those in the church need to have, that they may once again realize their sins do not separate them from God, for God separates the sin from them.

If the church is to find renewal, it will be here… celebrating the love of God given to us all, welcoming us home.  All of us. 

Don’t neglect this necessity in life, don’t diminish it, hear God’s words, hear what they promise, and then come, take and eat the Body of Christ broken for you… and drink of His blood, poured out for you, that makes you part of His family, and cleanses you of all your sin. 

You and I need this… so let us celebrate His love, together!  AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 484). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 248). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Transforming the Sounds of Silence…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  So by virtue of the blood of Jesus, you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the holy of holies by way of the one who died and is yet alive, who has made for us a holy means of entry by himself passing through the curtain, that is, his own human nature. Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable – and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds. And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer. Hebrews 10:19 (Phillips NT)

Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there may be a great spirit of communion.  

Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help, and go unanswered, nothing’s ever the same again. Nothing. Even God changes.
But there is a healing hand at work that cannot be deflected from its purpose. I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry. Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk.
Out there, in the world, it can be very cold. It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.

The song came up in a discussion yesterday, the cover of a classic that is even rawer, more real, more…powerfully and compelling than Simon and Garfunkel ever imagined.

I have listened to it over and over this morning, in awe of the pain, of the devastation and emptiness observed.  (one track is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4&start_radio=1&list=RDWJCGY0Hxz1M )  In awe of the helplessness expressed as the singer looks upon those he would help, and they won’t listen.

This morning, in my devotions, the resonance continued, as the quote in blue echoed the theme… the brokenness, the rawness, of prayers of a child unanswered, or prayers of a friend. The only answer is tear-soaked prayers of my own, and the insistence that we live between the moments of hope and despair, and faith and doubt, death and life.

Life is about more than good and bad luck and the distribution of them that is so absurd. Yet there are days it seems so, as evil seems blessed, as good seems oppressed, as sin and brokenness seem to reign over the land.  Even in the church, as people set aside their relationship with God to define and be in a religion that resonates with their opinions, beliefs, bias and political positions.

So how do we survive, and how do we help people caught up in the meaningless and vanity of this life?  Can we truly bring them peace, can they find it within what we reveal to them, with what we encourage each other?

The scripture passage from Hebrews says, “YES” and I do not believe it to be so!

I can’t believe it, I have been too overwhelmed by the times where there are no more tears, when the heart feels heavy and empty, and where eyes seem lifeless.  I can’t believe it, because I’ve seen the people in bondage to their pain, their grief, their shame.

I can’t believe it!

I know it though, my soul is in awe when it is has seen people come to life, be renewed, be healed of brokenness that has shattered them, and their family.  I have seen God do the impossible, I have seen the tears return at altars once abandoned, I have seen peace wash over those whose lives have known only suffering. I have seen joy break through empty eyes like the sun exploding through the darkness of night.

I know it.

I have seen this prayer come true,

and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

That is the difference having a relationship, a deep, abiding, intimate relationship with Jesus makes in life. A life with Him that is shared with others, as we remind each other of this,

As we realize that in the sound of silence, in that place stillness, we can encounter and be lifted up by the fact that He is God, and He loves us.

That is the sound of silence, transformed by the Holy Spirit…

Lord, help all who read this resonate, not only with the honesty that brokenness leaves us with but with the hope that even in the silent darkness You come and are with us.  Help us to realize that You are our sanctuary, our fortress, our peace.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 251). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

William Brodrick from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/
IT

Long lost lessons about dealing with feelings of futility,urgency and anxiety.

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”  *Ecc 12:8  HCSB

10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2)

6  So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. 1 Peter 5:6 (Phillips NT)

Rush, rush, rush! Hustle and bustle! Feverish activity! The mad urge to dash about. Amazing material structures … On the spiritual level … shams, illusions: flimsy backdrops, cheesecloth scenery, painted cardboard … Hustle and bustle! And a lot of people running hither and thither. It is because they work thinking only of “today”; their vision is limited to “the present.” But you must see things with the eyes of eternity, “keeping in the present” what has passed and what has yet to come. Calmness. Peace. Intense life within you. Without that wild hurry. Without that mad urge for change. From your own place in life, like a powerful generator of spiritual energy, you will give light and vigor to ever so many without losing your own vitality and your own light.

“slow down, you’re moving to fast, you’ve got to make the morning last!” came to my mind as I read the words in blue this morning.  Had to look the lyrics up -they come from a Simon & Garfunkel hit some 4-5 decades ago.

I remember a booklet in high school, that I read, and set aside because it wasn’t relevant to me, yet.  It was called Tyranny of the Urgent, and it to came to mind as I read these words of St. Josemaria.  As did lessons in my management program about the danger of managing from a reactive position, and the necessity of waiting patiently to see if things resolve.

As I spend more and more time in ministry, I think we have to learn these lessons over again.  Not passively or apathetically taking no action, but doing so with intent and deliberation, and a healthy dependence upon God. 

That’ is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes had to cope with, as he looked around him and realized the futility of life.  It is what the people in Isaiah’s time needed to learn, as they saw their world falling apart. It is what Peter (OF ALL PEOPLE!) advocates to those under pressure because of their faith.

Set all the things causing stress on God, knowing He will help – and keep us able to stand in the midst of a world trying to batter us, trying to break us.  He will heal us, His victory over sin and Satan and death becomes ours. 

The challenge is in realizing the eternal implications of our life in and with Christ.  My son’s teacher asked him this last year, “will this still be an issue in five years?” We should ask a similar question, “how does this affect our eternity?” and then work from that perspective. How does this situation lead people to God’s peace, or away from it? How will God view us, His children differently if we don’t immediately react?  

Take a breath… adjust, take a walk and spend the time looking for clues to God’s presence. 

God is with you….

Rest in that thought not just a second, try ten minutes, or sixty, or a day!

Repeat that, slowly, “The Lord is with me!”  

Be at peace, be still in and awe of the Lord’s work in your life…. and let go of the sense of urgency, the stress of anxiety, and the condemnation of futility.

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1928-1936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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