Category Archives: Poiema

Blog posts here were inspired or include quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva.

How You See the World (and Yourself) Needs to Change

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 16  I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers 17  and ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him. 18  I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19  and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20  which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:15-20 (TEV)

283    A little diversion! You’ve got to have a change! So you open your eyes wide to let in images of things, or you squint because you’re nearsighted! Close them altogether! Have interior life, and you’ll see the wonders of a better world, a new world with undreamed-of color and perspective … and you’ll draw close to God. You’ll feel your weaknesses; and you’ll become more God-like…with a godliness that will make you more of a brother to your fellow men by bringing you closer to your Father.

There is a vision problem in this country, and in the church.

The way people see the world, their communities, their churches and their own lives, well, lets put it honestly, sucks.

This includes me, perhaps mostly me.

That view point can lead to anger, to frustration, to putting hope in people, who are frankly, no better than the people who have let us down in the past. They are sinners, they are broken, they will at some time or another, let you down.

We look for change, but we look for it in the wrong place.

We might even look at the need to change in ourselves, and try to force it, trying to make ourselves into an image that is not necessarily what or whom we are supposed to be.

And so, maybe in desperation, we hear the voice of saints who knew enough self doubt. One whose words are simply his own reflections on the matter, and one whose words are divinely inspired.

We have to be careful to hear exactly what St Josemaria is saying, and not hear what we think we hear. When He talks of an interior life, He is talking about our walk with God. He is not talking about a brutal self examination where we focus on our own brokenness, our own sin, our own perception of who we are, god or bad.

He’s talking about seeing you as God knows you, (see Colossians 3:1) the real you. Theone loved enough that Christ died for them, and had planned to from before the foundation of the earth. He’s talking about the very thing St Paul writes to the church in Ephesus about – to know the glorious hope, the amazing promises that comes as God is revealed to you, and you realize who you are in relation to God.

It is then, knowing we are beloved, that the world changes in our sight. From being hopelessly broken to seeing the redemption and reconciliation going on, such that we become so confident of it, we patiently wait for the return of Jesus. We begin to see the beauty God created, both in nature and in others, and we see the potential of what it will be like, when it is renewed.

When we see the power of God, that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, at work in us, then everything changes, and our prayer, “Lord, have mercy!” goes from a begging plea of desperation to a cry of confidence…assured of His presence, His promises, His love.

And it can all start, by closing our eyes, picturing Jesus on the cross, and with a growing confidence praying, “our Father, who art in heaven…”

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 749-753). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Fall 7 times, get up 8? Yeah… uhhh…

Devotional Thought:

When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice 2 saying, “Mortal man, stand up. I want to talk to you.” 2 While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet, and I heard the voice continue, 3 “Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. 4 They are stubborn and do not respect me, so I am sending you to tell them what I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them. 5 Whether those rebels listen to you or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 1:28-2:5 GNT

274    “Father,” said that big fellow, a good student at the Central* (I wonder what has become of him), “I was thinking of what you told me—that I’m a son of God!—and I found myself walking along the street, head up, chin out, and a feeling of pride inside …a son of God!” With sure conscience I advised him to foster that “pride.”

As I read the details of Ezekiel’s call, I resonate with the idea of falling on my face. THough usually for me it is not because of seeing the glory of God. Too often, it is because I’ve screwed up, or something in life has tripped me up, and I landed hard, as if I did a belly flop/face plant.

I hear the voice of my dad, “get up, brush yourself off, and take your stand!”

Except there are times that is impossible, what knocked me down seems improbable to deal with, if not impossible. All those proverbs about getting up one more time just seem, well, ignorant.

In the prophets case, God even prepares them for the rejection, for the fact that he will do a faceplant.

But in that position, there is some hope. There is the Holy Spirit that enters us and raises us to our feet.

You see there are days when the only way to get up, is to have God raise us up. There are days where we have to realize it is God that raised us up, and placed us where He knows we need to be.

To depend on Him for lifting us up? That’s a challenge! To depend on Him to keep us up is a whole different challenge.

It is in those moments, realize that we aren’t the first to fall down and think we can’t get up (or we are just tired and don’t want to get up) becomes helpful. What is even more helpful is what the student realized. That we are the beloved sons and daughters of God. That He is looking out for us, that He is caring and providing for us, that He doesn’t tire of picking us off, healing our bruised hearts and souls, and being our paraclete, the comforter called alongside to help us carrying our burdens.

As we realize that we also realise this, and pray it for each other

18  I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19  and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20  which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.
Ephesians 1:18-20 (TEV)

This is our God, and here we stand, we can do not other.

And with apologies to Martin, the reason we can stand is not because of our conviction that we are right, but simply because of the love, mercy and grace of God. Because He has made us His kids, because with all of His power supporting us, we can stand.

AMEN.



Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 728-731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do You Wish For Something to Small?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11† my persecutions, and my sufferings. You know all that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the terrible persecutions I endured! But the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 13 and evil persons and impostors will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. 2 TImothy 3:10-14 GNT

228    “Have a good time,” they said as usual. And the comment of a soul very close to God was, “What a limited wish!”

Looking at the words of St. Josemaria this morning, I was a little… I don’t know the words. I had to sit and think about it for a moment.

What’s wrong with wishing that someone have a good time, that they enjoy whatever it is they do? Isn’t that what we would hope they would want for us?

How can it be considered “limited?”

It takes a moment or too to think it through, to consider some of those times that are not “good” in the sense of enjoyable, in the sense of time where everything brings a smile to your face, a time that is “fun”

But some of the most blessed times are not enjoyable, that are not easy, that start in the midst of strife, or at the side of someone dealing with trauma or tragedy. Times where division and discord are dominant, time where I would prefer not to go. Times where the brokenness that is being experienced is crushing, and I walk away feeling drained and exhausted.

Times that end I end up looking back on in awe of what God accomplishes. In spite of the exhaustion, in spite of the pain, in spit of the suffering, these times are the times I have come to learn to treasure.

Because it is in those times, I see the grace of God revealed, and the healing that only God can create brings peace where there is no peace. I have learned to seek and expect miraculous things in those times. That helps, stay focused on God in the midst of the struggle, and to remain hopeful and pray for the grace to be confident in God’s faithfulness.

The Apostle Paul indicates that tough times happen to those who follow Christ. It’s going to happen, you can’t address brokenness without being affected by it. Paul puts it clearly, those who deceive are deceived themselves. Ministering to such people often is like wrestling an alligator! But the battle is not against the one deceived, but the spiritual powers that have them in bondage.

At the end of the day, which would you rather have done? Enjoyed a pleasurable time, or rejoiced in God’s work? Which will you remember 20 years from now?

Desire something more… even though it seems to have a cost… remembering God is with you!

Lord Jesus, help us desire to see You at work, more than we desire our own comfort. Help us to enter those situations were things are broken, looking for the miracles You are doing. In Jesus name… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 629-631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You Know It’s a Hard Week When…

Photo by MIXU on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

81  I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82  My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83  I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84  How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)

165    You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?

I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.

God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.

Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.

Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.

Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.

It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.

In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”

St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.

This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.

“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.

That this time will pass, and we will see God.

This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Future? What Hope?

Devotional Thought of the Day

But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jere. 29:10-14 NLT

For God chose you as the first to be saved by the Spirit’s power to make you his holy people and by your faith in the truth. 14 God called you to this through the Good News we preached to you; he called you to possess your share of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ 2 Thes. 2:13-14 GNT

159    Your heart weakens and you reach out for something on earth to support you. Good, but take care that what you grasp to stop you from falling doesn’t become a dead weight that will drag you down, a chain that will enslave you.

The part of the reading from Jeremiah I’ve heard people tell me a thousand times. Sometimes they are claiming it as a personal prophecy, to give them hope in the midst of suffering. Other times they are counseling me, telling me that God has that special plan for my life, that there is something greater that what is presently being experienced.

As if God’s plan for my future 20 minutes ago, or 10 years ago didn’t include this moment, this crisis, the time of trial.

St. Josemaria reminds me that trying to reach out for support, for help is a good thing. But we risk it becoming an idol, and the support being that which drags us down even farther than we presently are. Experience tells me he is right, that sometime that which we lean on, and those we lean on can drag us down. Including those who very sincerely try to lift us up by quoting Jer. 23:11.

Looking at it in context, we begin to see the future and a hope that God has laid out. It is more wonderful than anything we could anticipate.

In context, God promises to give us His attention. When we pray, when we talk to Him, He is all ears! That is what it means to be the people of God, He cares for us and listens to us. Instead of turning to potential idols, we can turn to Him!

In context as well, this means that we can find Him when we need Him. If we look for Him, He will be there. Not in some hidden place, He will be with us. This reminds me of Elijah’s taunting of the priests of Ba’al, who accused of going on vacation, or taking a bathroom break. Our God never slumbers or sleeps.

In context, the biggest promise is God restoring us, and bringing us home from the place where we are being disciplined (and even there He watches over us (see Jer. 23:7) This plan, this future, this hope is fulfilled because we are the people of God who dwell in His presence.

Nothing else we could ever dream up comes close to this wonderful relationship, nothing could be as comforting, nothign will bring us as much joy. This is what Paul talks about as the secret of the ages in Colossians 1, the secret that is because Christ is in you, you have the promise of sharing in His glory, the very same promise from 2 Thessalonians above.

That is our future, that is our hope. Eternal life with God. A life that has begun with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and will bedome more real on the Day of Christ’s return.

One more final thought

“What no one ever saw or heard,
what no one ever thought could happen,
is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.
” 1 Cor. 2:9b



Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 499-501). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Coping with Ministry Burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. 10 . 18  Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)

13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT

261    I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.

Two things showed up on my computer this morning.

The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.

It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.

This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.

So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.

You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.

Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.

The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.

The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….

“and also with you…”

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Why Would God Stay in this relationship?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion. 15 I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding. 16 Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one. 17 When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. 18 Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.” Jeremiah 3:14-18 GNT

1  Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good, and his love is eternal. 2  Let the people of Israel say, “His love is eternal.” 3  Let the priests of God say, “His love is eternal.” 4  Let all who worship him say, “His love is eternal.” 5  In my distress I called to the LORD; he answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:1-5 (TEV)

152    Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.

As you read the Book of Jeremiah, you see different aspects of God’s personality. There is the God who warns people about the wrath to come, there is the God who Jeremiah feels betrayed by, and there is the God who begs and pleads for His people to come home.

And yet, as we know, this God is one, and the focus is that on those who have rebelled, or walked away, or just ignored God, and getting them to return.

A God who promised to do away with the sacrificial system, a God who would promise to forget His anger toward them, a God who would provide everything, if only His people would come back.

Seems a little like a lovesick teenager, who will do anything if only their love would stop messing around with others, and be faithful. Between passages like this one above, and the Book of Hosea, God doesn’t appear in the greatest of light! How could He be such a sucker as to let people betray Him, disrespect Him, cheat on Him, and still beg for them to return?

Is He that infatuated with us?

If this was a human relationship, we would be telling Him to dump those unfaithful, ungrateful wretches, and if He didn’t we would wonder what kind of chicken He was. How could someone have such a grip on someone else and let themselves be so mistreated?

The difference is that with God the love is truly pure, His being faithful is not because He is blind, or because He things we will completely change in this life. He knows how we will struggle, He is in this for the long haul, and the Spirit works within us.

That is why Psalm 118 was Luther’s go to, we have to have God’s love for us revealed often! We need to help our people (and ourselves) realize that God will be this faithful and has planned things for us beyond our ability to imagine.

We have to know we can call to Him, and be set free.

When we do this, it is what St Josemaria describes, this detachment from everything but God, for it is in union with Him that we find peace.

And having found that, and seen how He has promised to truly perfect our lives, we can rejoice in His work in our reconciliation.

Lord, help us to hear Your plea and, led by the Holy Spirit, return and rejoice in Your faithful love. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Devotions aren’t for the devoted…

One of my first Bibles looked like this..

Devotional Thought for the day:

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT

While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.

You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?

My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.

It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.

I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.

What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.

Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)

I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.

It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pray… even if you don’t have the words.. (A lesson re-learnt)

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.

I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.

To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope. 

In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.

These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”

I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.

I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.

I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.

I had no more words.

That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…

26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT

Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.

This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.

Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.

To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.

After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.

God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Learning from the Lives of Those Who’ve Gone Before

Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD says,
“Listen to me, you that want to be saved, you that come to me for help. Think of the rock from which you came, the quarry from which you were cut. 2 Think of your ancestor, Abraham, and of Sarah, from whom you are descended. When I called Abraham, he was childless, but I blessed him and gave him children; I made his descendants numerous
. Isaiah 51:1-2 GNT

In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence. Eph 3:12 GNT

105    If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others?

In our first quote from Isaiah, God tells us to look back at our past, at the people who came before us. The passage will start with Abraham, but it will not stop then. God wants us to think about those who went before, to consider their situations deeply.

But the reason why is critical. We look back at the past not to glorify them (they were sinners – notorious ones at times) or imitate their actions (they were sinners remember) and turn what they did into our traditions. They aren’t superheroes, and people for us to adore. They were sinners.

We can talk of Abraham or Moses, we can move to the New Testament and talk of Peter and Paul. We can talk about the saints through the ages, ones like Francis of Assisi, or Ignatius of Loyola, modern favorites like St. Theresa or Billy Graham, or my two favorites Martin Luther and St. Josemaria Escriva.

Looking back at those who went before us is good, unless we begin to turn them into idols, or people whose faith and practice was so much “holier” than our own. We need to remember Paul didn’t say “imitate me!” He said imitate me as I imitate Christ”

So what do we do with these saints? what do we learn as we look back at those whose faith precedes our own?

The Lord tells us in Isaiah, we look back and see that Abraham was a broken guy, just like the rest of us, and then God worked in His life!

As we look at the past, that’s what we need to see, that the Lord worked in the life of Abraham, that God worked in the life of Moses, and King David, and stubborn and broken guys like the Apostles Peter and Paul

God works in our lives too. Which is why the chief of all sinners can tell the church in Ephesus to enter the presence of God the Father with confidence. Not when we die and get to heaven, though that surely will happen then. But to do so now, as we be still and take time to pray, to seriously find ourselves in the presence of God, laying burdens down, letting Him strip us of sin, talking with us, being with us.

This is why we look back at the our ancestors in the faith. To realize as broken and sinful as they were, God worked in their lives, He drew them into a relationship with Him, and in the process, things happened. But the major lesson – they lived in the presence of God, learning to depend on Him, whether in their prayers, or the times where He was physically present.

That’s what we need to know. That is what we must experience. that is what every person in our world needs. Looking back shows us He will be there, because He always has been there for His people, no matter how broken, even calling them back when they wandered or ran off.

He was faithful, He is faithful, and we learn He will be faithful in our lives, and in those who follow us… and look back to us.



Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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