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When It All Seems…. Too, Too Much!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. 
The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away.
Praise the name of Yahweh.   Job 1:21 HCSB

10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job:210  HCSB

535 Communion, union, communication, intimacy: Word, bread, love.

As I read through the Old Testament, I hate it when I come to the book of Job.

For one thing, all the wisdom of his friends. which in the end is declared useless – why bother with it?

The more scary thought, is my life going to resemble this soon (or I could make the argument it does it now!)  If so, how will I survive?  If so, why does God allow these times of adversity? 

How will I survive?  Will the darkness overwhelm me?

And then I get mad at God, I would even say I get pissed off at Him. I don’t have the patience or righteousness or wisdom of Job!  

That is perhaps, why I need to read of his travail.

I need to know that kind of confidence, that accepts God’s providence, even when it is adversity, even when it will stretch us, even when we think we are at the end and can’t take one more thing.  When we realize there is no strength in us.

It is then we realize that there is only one option.

Communion.

Intimacy with God.

It is there we can be assured of His love.  It is there, in His presence, we know His mercy so completely that we cannot doubt that even the adversity is somehow a blessing.  It is there, as we receive Him, as He comes to us, that His peace overwhelms everything.

That is the communion that led to Job’s faith.  That is the communion that sustains the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and saints throughout time.  It is that communion that enables us to go on.  It is that communion that has sustained me through dark times in my life.

It is that communion, that presence of God that lifts me up, comforts me, guides me…

My only wish is that I could have it more often…

No, my wish is we could have it together more often.

Lord have mercy on us!  

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1295-1296). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Darkness seems to close in… yet…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \

19  O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21  Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22  Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance! Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)

470    The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?

There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil. 

It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us.  How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)

As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning. 

Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there.  He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.

So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them. 

This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are.  Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts. 

Why there were saints?  They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness.  They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands.  In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.

Even if we can’t see it yet.

He has found us, for He sees in the darkness. 

Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.  

Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness.  Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to find strength in the face of adversity and trauma?

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

There are days when it seems the trials and traumas never end.  For a pastor, perhaps we see this more often than others, but I don’t think so.  There are so many things out there to cause anxiety, from health issues to financial struggles, to friends and family in trauma, to marriages and relationships that struggle and need supernatural help to survive and heal.

As I related yesterday, I’ve had a few myself –  from dieing to surgeries, and to being there for people in the midst of so many issues.   I have found that in the midst of adversity, in the midst of trauma, there is both a sense of peace, and strength that is there that isn’t mine, but it is available to me.  It is one of the reasons I am writing a book about churches in trauma – to remind them of what is already there… for them..

In this mornings devotion, I came across two notes that reveal it a little, once you think them through:

475    You realize you are weak. And so, indeed, you are. In spite of all that—rather, because of it—God has sought you. He always uses inadequate instruments so that the work may be seen to be his. From you he asks only docility.

476    When you really give yourself to God, no difficulty will be able to shake your optimism.  (Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1165-1168). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

I’ve been accused of being too optimistic once or twice, and while I would adjust St Josemaria’s statement a little – I agree with it.  My adjustment would be to say “When you abandon yourself to God” rather than give.   Give makes it sound like you can, like a child “take back” that which you have given.  (and so often we do!)  But to come to the realization that there is no other option, no other hope, then you do let God be God, the Master who promises to and designs your life as a piece of artwork.  (see Eph. 2:10 – the word for workmanship there is the word we get poetry from!)

I am not talking about conversion here – at least not in the evangelical sense.  For there, conversion has little to do with us, God simply reveals Himself and His love, through those who come to us with His word.  Wesley may have called this a “second infilling of grace”, Robert Schuller calls this positive thinking (knowing that we are God’s brings about incredible strength in times of need – that’s the hallmark of most of his writing) , the prophet/leader Joshua would ask it this way “choose you this day whom you serve”.  The apostle Paul talks about being confident that “all things work for good for those that love God.”   Luther would talk about such as a First Commandment issue – don’t have other God’s – but call upon Him in prayer and praise.  When you abandon yourself into God’s hands, and are confident that is the thing to do- you simply know and trust in Him.

What is mistaken for optimism – is simply a matter of confidence in God.  Trusting Him, having faith in Him, knowing Him.

That is where the other point of St. Josemaria comes into play.  When we realize we are weak – when we realize we have no real option but to abandon ourselves to God, then we begin to realize that God has plans, He has designs on our life, and those designs bring us to places we would have never imagined, to work with people we would never anticipate, and see them respond to the work of God in our lives.  Not because we can do great things – but in the midst of the storms, in the midst of what should promote incredible anxiety, in the middle of it all… we know God is with us.

Having mercy, pouring out His love and comfort, assuring us of our place with Him……there is our strength, and knowing that, we can be incredibly bold – in being His people.

So know He is God, and you are His chosen people.  And let Him do His thing… being God – He’s significantly better at being God than you are!

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