Category Archives: st josemaria escriva

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.

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.

What kind of things are you willing to do for God?

Future and a HopeDevotional Thought of the Day:

28  They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” John 6:28 (NLT2)

41  If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. Mark 9:41 (NLT2)

819    Because you have been in pauca fidelis—“faithful in the little things”—enter into the joy of your Lord. The words are Christ’s. In pauca fidelis! … Now will you disdain little things, if Heaven itself is promised to those who keep them?

As I prepare to preach on John 6 this weekend, the first verse above is part of the text.  It takes me back to the days of college when we all believed we would do great things for Jesus.  We were willing after all, and some of us had the brains, and others the charisma, and a few had both the charisma and the brains.  And a few of us had neither.

Jesus’s response is interesting.  Most translate it “believe in the Son of Man.”  I read it as “depend on the Son of Man”.  There can be a huge difference between the two statements.  Belief seems like a passive response, just sit there and acknowledge me.  Just think about me once in a while, and let me take care of everything. Depend seems far more active as if we are going to do something that we can only do with God’s intercession, with His guidance, requiring both His power and His approval. 

Like being able to realize who needs a cup of water, and finding the focus to give it to them.

Like holding someone’s hand while they are crying, and keeping our own mouth shut, and sobbing with them. 

Like finding the strength to allow someone to make errors, and being there while they try and pick up the pieces.   Like finding the power to humble yourself and apologize for what you have done wrong, and doing what you can to make up for it. 

St Josemaria echoes the theme when he asks why we would toss aside the little things God has called us to do, For there we find God’s promises.  Not just rewards, but the presence of God that ensures those rewards.  The presence of God which is more than a reward.

It is easy to set our dreams high, expect ourselves to serve in the big things, to desire to write the perfect worship song, or pastor the megachurch, or become the next missionary who changes a country.  But those dreams are ours, not necessarily God’s.

God’s start small, loving your neighbor enough to give them a cup of water, or a listening ear.  For those things make a huge difference in life…..

May your faith allows you to see the needs of those around you, and a relationship with God that brings great joy when you help them know His peace!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1881-1883). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Parker Parable: Life is like a glass of ice tea!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
31  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG)

797    You know that your way is not clear, and that by not following Jesus closely you remain with that clouded vision. Then, what are you waiting for to make up your mind?

Until a year ago, I was an avid tea drinker, and I would make ice tea by the gallon and drink it over the day.  Earl Grey white was my favorite, and I would take my fancy tea maker and steep the tea, then drain it off and add ice.

in Peterson’s translation, he uses the same illustration for life, that we should steep out life in God,.  We should let our lives be infused with His view of reality (that we are forgiven and adopted in Christ Jesus) We should soak our lives in the work of God, redeeming and sanctifying us, and depending on Him to provide all we need. 

We need to do this, to soak in the love and mercy of God, to let it change and flavor our very lives.  Tea is no longer simply water, no longer simply a bunch of dried and cured leaves, it is a new liquid.  The same for us, infused with the Holy Spirit, we are a new creation. We are one with Him. 

The challenge is letting other things in the process.  the things that cause anxieties, heartaches, the resentment stored up, the sin hidden and harbored, These cloud our life, and seem to affect our relationship with Jesus, they blind us to His reality, to what He provides in our lives.   

The challenge is, cleaning out all the other stuff, of learning to give all our attention to God, seeking Him and His reality, His kingdom. We need to depend on God to bring us to that point in life, to that point in our ministry.

My special tea-maker had a drain that filtered out all the leaves and the junk left over from the seeping.  The micro-filter screens eliminated all but the liquid, allowing for the purest cup of tea.  We need to let God do that with us, filtering out the sin and desires, the anxieties and resentments.  We have ot let Him do it so that all that is left is the relationship we have with God, in Christ.

Then our vision and our mission will be clear, and it will motivate and empower us more than any beverage ever could!  For we will not only know with our minds God is with us, we will experience it and be refreshed by it!

Lord help us this day realize how much You infuse our lives.  Help us to trust You and let You filter out of our lives everything that pollutes, everything that clouds our vision of You!  We thank You and Praise You!  Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1837-1839). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Am I crazy… enough?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:

13  If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16  So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)

775    Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.

22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.

There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!

But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.

This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it. 

What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.

Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born.  Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse,   Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.

It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing.  Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.

If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Dare I pray this? Dare I not?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

23  God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. 24  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. Psalm 139:23-24 (NJB)

Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. 2 For the person who speaks in another •language is not speaking to men but to God, since no one understands him; however, he speaks •mysteries in the Spirit. l 3 But the person who prophesies speaks to people for edification, encouragement, and consolation. 4 The person who speaks in another language builds himself up, but he who prophesies builds up the church.  1 Cor 14:1-4 HCSB

771    God exalts those who carry out his will in the very same things in which he humbled them.

There is a joke about being cautious as you pray for things like patience and faith, because surely God will hear those prayers, and give you the opportunity to see your growth.  Of course, the only way to see growth in those things is when you have to demonstrate them.

Even though the idea of having to be patient is scary, the idea of praying the psalmist pray this morning is even scarier.  To give God permission, to beg God to investigate every nook and cranny of our heart, our soul, our very being, and to make sure I am not doing anything offensive, anything evil, anything that would lead me to ruin.

God knows our right and our wrong, our acts of rebellion, our sin, but to invite Him in to purge them from us?  That is a hard prayer, that is one that scares me, for somehow I think that what I hide from him, what I deny to myself, somehow doesn’t count, it doesn’t affect me and others, it just was a passing moment, something I barely remember.

And yet, it is only after I pray that, only after letting Jesus carefully circumcise my heart, that I can begin to understand how great His love his and be in awe of His mercy. It is only then that I can begin to realize what it means to be the one He loves, and adore God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is only then that life begins.

A focus on such love, pursuing such love is essential for those of us who preach, who prophesy, who teach.  Whether it is to a parish of thousands, or to two or three in a elementary sunday school class.  I believe there is a distinct impact on preaching and teaching that comes from knowing we are loved.  Not just knowing it as a fact, but living in the midst of that love, knowing that love so well that we easily trust Him, even with the darkest parts of our lives.

It is as we are rescued from that darkness we can speak of it in a way that edifies the church, that lifts them up, that convinces them of the love of God.  THat allow them to realize that God loves them as well, that they can trust Him to transform them.

That when God humbles us, it is so that, cleansed of all that has damaged us, we can be lifted up, healed, and in awe, knowing He loves us.

Such is our calling, such is our relationship with HIm… and though this prayer still scares me, can we pray it together?

Heavenly Father, we count on our love, we acknowledge the need of the Spirit to come through our lives, cleansing us from our sin, our brokenness, our pursuit of things we know distress you. Lord, help us to pursue the love you told us you have, and counting on that love, search our hearts our souls and minds, Find the things that displease You and take them away, so that you may guide us on this way of everlasting life.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1785-1786). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Bottom Line

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
1  When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2  For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (TEV)

729    Each day, O my God, I am less sure of myself and more sure of you!

Back in my youth, there was a phrase used that described the attitude of many students in college.  It went like this, “If you cannot blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!”

With intent or not, that may have gotten many of us a grade or two better than we deserve.  Like most sophomore (from the greek where we get the words wise and fool/moron) we thought we knew everything about everything, and we tried to impress others with those beliefs and impose those beliefs on them.

I don’t think those attitudes have changed all that much, even as I encountered them as an instructor in both computer information systems and in world religions in the last two decades.

As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, and I considered all the fake news out there, I remembered the attitude and the bravado and crap that we typed onto papers and presented in class.

And I regret that past, for instead of shuffling data to look good and trying to impress professors and classmates, I could have been learning more about the love of God. The love revealed in the incarnation, in the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah, in His suffering and death which frees you and I from sin, from the resurrection, which brings us to live in Him.  I could have been looking for to the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.

For that is the bottom line in life.  Nothing else truly matters.

We keep it simple, Christ came to save sinners. sinners like me.  To save us from ourselves. To save us to himself.  AMEN

Lord, help us each day to become less sure of ourselves, and surer of Your love and presence in our lives.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1711-1712). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Same Words… found back to back, that help in the dark times of life!

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.  ( Psalm 42:11 AND 43:5 HCSB)

695    In the moments of struggle and tribulation, when perhaps the “good” fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as he speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven, and say to him: Edissere nobis parabolam—“Explain the parable to me.” And you’ll feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air under the shelter of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened.

As I was reading Psalm 42 this morning, the verse in red and it hit me.

The amount of trauma and conflict  (more of the former than the latter)  I have had to deal with recently has me somewhat depressed. Okay, more than somewhat. The accumulated weight of trying to guide people to God in at least 10 situations has taken its tole.

So I highlighted the verse, thankful for the reminder that my hope is in something far more stable, far more faithful. and knowing that, even in the midst of this dark time, I can praise Him.  Can?  I must, for that is the reaction of relief, as I remember He is here, as I remember His promises.

At least I do for a moment, then move on, back into reading the next Psalm, which is a little more positive, a little more upbeat, and yet, it ends with the same exact same words!  Okay, I’ve got the message Lord, and paused to let them sink in a little more.

I need to… I really do.

Then I scroll over to my friend’s writing.  For I resonate with so much that St. Josemaria Escriva writes, it feels like the words of a wise friend when I read them.

WHich takes the hope, seeping through the darkness, and causes it to shatter the darkness.

Even though I reached on the passage yesterday, I forgot that often how Christ minister’s to us in our brokenness, is how He ministers through us ot others.   Knowing how we have died and risen with Him, and find shelter in Him, means that in my death and resurrection Christ’s work will help others find peace and freedom. They will find rest as I minister to them, they will find hope, and by God’s grace, the darkness they encounter will be shattered as well.

including the 10 plus situations where brokenness and darkness seem so… overwhelming.

What kind of God do we have, that can take someone as broken and struggling as I am, and give me the peace to help others who are breaking and broken?  What kind of God can help people find refuge and sanctuary through all of us, even as our faith wavers a little?  How incredible is that?  How amazing?

Only the God who is loving and merciful, the God who is our Savior, who is our God.

As we realize what it means that He is our God, that we have been drawn to Him and made His people, it is time to react… it is time to praise Him and adore Him, and walk with Him!

Amen!

What joy would it bring you to know God will use all things for good for you, even the trauma, the suffering, even the conflict?  

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1620-1625). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The Job that Pastors and the Church Needs to Be Better Trained to Do

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth s of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part Eph 4:10-16  HCSB

They are to be carefully instructed in the art of directing souls, whereby they will be able to bring all the sons of the Church first of all to a fully conscious and apostolic Christian life and to the fulfillment of the duties of their state of life. Let them learn to help, with equal solicitude, religious men and women that they may persevere in the grace of their vocations and may make progress according to the spirit of their various Institutes.
In general, those capabilities are to be developed in the students which especially contribute to dialogue with men, such as the ability to listen to others and to open their hearts and minds in the spirit of charity to the various circumstances and needs of men.

675    It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment. Have pity in your heart and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity.

There is a term I was introduced to when I became a Lutheran pastor.  

It was “seelsorge” or caretaker of souls.  It is similar to the idea in the Anglican Church of being a curate of the church,  The person responsible to see people guided into God’s presence so that their hearts and souls (and often more) can be healed. 

But that just doesn’t include the members of a congregation or parish.  It is the entire community.   As St Josemaria reminds us, those whom we might discount because of their past may be called to something “more.”,  they may become the giants we are looking to as examples. 

It doesn’t matter if they are the mouth of the church, or the heart, hidden away, praying in their prayer closet. Our job as the caretakers is to make sure they have what they need, the ability to depend on God because we know Him.  This drives the ministries of the church, This drives the work of helping everyone mature in the presence of God, 

To help people grow in their dependence (for that is what faith is) in God, to help them grow in knowing and experiencing His love as He is present in their lives, Vatican II was correct.  Those who minister, those of us who pastor and care for souls need to know how to guide them. to help them be conscious of their calling and being sent out into the world, of what Catholics call their apostolate, what Protestants call being missional.

We are to train them, to guide them into the presence of Jesus, into knowing His mercy, His love, His gift that cause us to dwell in peace. This isn’t just the pastor’s job, it is the work of every minister in the church. 

It is who we are… it is why we exist, and it was what we need to be trained to do.  I really think that needs to become more and more how we train our pastors, our deacons, our elders and various ministers of the church.  It is more important than knowing the trivia of scripture or knowing the all the theological information there is.   We have o know God is with us, and we have to teach God will be with them.

We have to know how to use God’s word, to administer the sacraments in such a way that people know they belong in God’s presence, whether they are young or old, male or female, whether their sin is hidden or notorious. Whether they become ushers in the church or the next Augustine or do the really critical work of teaching the children of the church.  (which is all to often overlooked!)

This is the ministry of the church.  The caretaking of souls entrusted to it by God.  Not just the recognized members of the church.. but the church.

Lord have mercy on us and help us to be trained and train people to care for souls.  AMEN!

Questions:
What do you think the hardest part of caring for souls is?

What do you think the greatest blessing is?

 

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Priestly Training: Optatum Totius. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1568-1570). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is it worth it? A reflection on 20 plus years of ministry….

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions.11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 
12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first.  Job 42:10-12  HCSB

670    Jesus says: “Everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall possess life everlasting.” Try to find anyone on earth who repays with such generosity!

Twenty years ago this August I made the decision to leave my position at Pepperdine University, and become a full-time pastor at the small desert church I was pastoring on weekends. Ten years ago, we made the decision to leave our very comfortable life in the mountains where I pastored, to come back to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

In both situations, the decisions had a significant financial impact, and more, for pastoring means you are there as people die, as others struggle with their sins (a number of times I have had members or former members who were arrested ) as people struggle with their brokenness.  Though most pastors don’t know it, part of the burn out is from something psychologists call “Second-Hand Shock Syndrome”  a subset of PTSD that occurs for those like pastors, nurses, fireman and counselors who encounter regularly the brokenness. of the world.

As I have thought about the last 20 years (and some before that as a jail chaplain) and looked at others who struggle in ministry, the words from Job and St. Josemaria echo in my ear.  I wonder, seriously wonder at times, when the payoff described will happen.

I am not asking you to feel sorry for those in ministry, especially me.  There are incredible blessings out there, every time I see someone baptized, or someone cry with joy as they realize that “God loves you” and “the Lord is with you” aren’t just trite sayings.  They are the truth and a life-changing truth. We get to see these incredible miracles, and they are a blessing that goes beyond description.

Yet there are days as well when most of us wonder when the work will ever get easier if the stresses will ever end.

So is having newer homes, and more kids, and more riches the reward that is waiting?

If that is all that is waiting for me, the answer is simple.

No, absolutely not.

While God is generous and loving and merciful, I think the blessings, whether now or in heaven that counts is what happens before chapter 42.  It is in the discussion God and Job have, in the fact that here is a man who converses with God, whom God challenges, yet doesn’t throw away. Whom God will declare is righteous, and though suffering becomes a blessing to his friendly tormentors.

It is this relationship, where God knows me better than I know myself, where He doesn’t abandon me (though sometimes I wonder why He hasn’t!) that is the ultimate level of generosity, that is the ultimate payoff. Intimacy with God who loves us is what this is all about, and that is more precious than any earthly reward.

And it isn’t just for pastors and priests.

He calls us all to be His sons and daughters. He desires to clean us from all that mars us, to heal our brokenness, to never leave us alone, to guide us through every portion of life, even when we don’t notice.

And to bring us into eternity, where we will see Him face to face.

25 But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. 26 Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. 27 I will see Him myself;  my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me. Job 19:25-27 HCSB

There it is, the “payoff” that makes this all worth it.  To look at a God and know Him, not as a stranger.  This is what makes it worth it for the lady that teaches 3-year-olds in Sunday School, or the Elder who takes communion ot the shut-in (and rushes to get there, so the lady can then go play Bingo at the senior center!) or the worship leader, tired from a hard week, who still smiles and ignores her own pain and anxiety and leads the people of God in praising Him, or the returned prodigal, who rejoices that wherever he goes people want to talk about God.

Or the pastor, who is simply tired… yet keeps on going, sustained by the God who is not stranger….but loves us all.  And who is reminded of that presence by those who lovingly tell him, “and also with you!”

For the Lord is with you as well… and I pray that you will see Him revealed, in all His glory, as you are embraced by Him.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1559-1561). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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