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Why am I stuck with doing this?

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day

10 Moses heard all the people complaining as they stood around in groups at the entrances of their tents. He was distressed because the LORD had become angry with them, 11 and he said to the LORD, “Why have you treated me so badly? Why are you displeased with me? Why have you given me the responsibility for all these people? 12 I didn’t create them or bring them to birth! Why should you ask me to act like a nurse and carry them in my arms like babies all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Numbers 11:10-12 GNT

479         “Pray for me,” I said as I always do. And he answered in amazement: “But is something the matter?” I had to explain that something is the matter or happens to us all the time; and I added that when prayer is lacking, “more and more weighty things are the matter.”

It’s the thought of the mom as she picks up after her children or her husband. It’s the thought of the manager after he sends his workers home for the day, It’s in the mind of the secretary who has to deal with unreasonable people, guarding her boss from them. It’s the thought of the nurse, who has to care and clean up patients, who cannot care for themselves. it’s the thought of the pastor, burnt out after the holidays and yet still having to meet the needs of people in crisis. The denominational officer, trying to figure out why another church is struggling.

And we cry out to God, why have YOU stuck us here?

Why did you give these people into my care?

Why can’t these people be “normal”, why are they so needy, so unaware, so irresponsible, and why do I have ot work them, clean them up, get them back healthy, and teach them to play well with others?

If St Josemaria is right. we are going to deal with those people all our lives. There is always something broken, or some relationship that is breaking. There is always another mess to clean up, another person or church in trauma, another friend caught up in sin.

So how do we survive? How can we keep our strength

Fellowship with God, deep, intimate fellowship, and sharing that with others, so we develop a burden to pray for each other, to bring the other before the throne of God, knowing that is where they will find the peace, the rest, the healing they need.

And that includes those people we have to serve, whether those in ministry with us or those we serve.

And it is where we need to be ourselves. Because life is like a boxing match, and sometimes it seems like the bell will never ring, ending the round.

So please pray for me… and let me know what I can pray for you!

may you know you dwell in His peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2100-2103). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We Need to Make the Time for the Miracle…

church at communion 2Devotional Thought for our Day:
“No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”
17 Eli responded, “Go in peace,  and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”   1 Samuel 1:15-18

Does our daily anxiety about life seem so important to us that we can find no time to look above it? There is the daily anxiety about food and lodging for ourselves and for those who are dear to us; our profession, our work; there is our responsibility for society in general, for its improvement, and that injustice may cease to exist in it so that all of us can eat our bread in peace and freedom. Does not all that seem so urgent that everything else seems of no consequence? And is that the whole problem? Today more and more individuals are of the opinion that religion is a waste of time, that only social action can make a significant contribution to man’s well-being. As a result, it will require a kind of miracle to make us let ourselves be lifted up to what is higher. But God be praised, such miracles do occur even today.

Christ as a light illumine and guide me.  Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me, on my left and on my right. 
This day Lord, be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each that speaks to me.  This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, and yet all-powerful.  Christ as a light, Christ as a shield, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.

Joseph Ratzinger’s words this morning, written perhaps 20 years ago or more, ring so true today.  We see so many things that need to be done, so many things that need to be corrected, so many things that cause anxiety, so many things that have to be addressed, otherwise, we cannot find the time to eat our bread in peace, truly free. 

These things are so urgent that everything else seems. not to matter, not to be of importance.  Including our religion, our walking with God, our taking the time in prayer, to pour out our hearts like Hannah did.

Last night in our church service, I saw something I have long dreamed of and encouraged.  People staying at the communion rail, emptying themselves, even through the tears, finding the freedom that comes as we, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, find that we cannot leave until we have emptied ourselves until we are confident that God has heard us.

Do I like the fact that these people’s lives are so challenged, so anxious that they must look for comfort, for peace there at the rail?  No, but I do love that they have come to recognize that it is the place where miracles begin. Where they can unburden, where they can drop the stuff that oppresses them and find hope, where they can find the peace they need. 

We need to pray, we need to know what the ancient Celtic Christians reveled in, the presence of God in every moment of our lives.  God so intimately involved, so compassionate that He will bear our burdens, that He will help us cope with anxieties, (whether we know what we are anxious about or not) 

Prayer isn’t about duty, it isn’t just another task in our calendar, it is where we find the miracle of peace, where we are reminded He is there, where we can pour out our heart, and ask for the faith to leave the burdens behind. 

God is with you… prayer makes that truth come alive!!!!  

So take the time, see the miracle begin and lead in freedom and peace!  AMEN!

(and anytime you want to come and prayer… you are welcome too!)

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

from the daily office: morning prayer of Celtic Daily Prayer:  Book 2

Real Burdens, Real Crosses to bear, and walking with Christ

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 37  “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38  Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39  Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)

995  A Christian always triumphs from the Cross, through his self-renunciation, because he allows God’s omnipotence to act. (1)

521  I wrote to you: Though I can understand that it’s not an uncommon way of talking, I’m not happy when I hear people describe the difficulties born of pride as “crosses”. These burdens are not the Cross, the true Cross, because they are not Christ’s Cross. So struggle against those invented obstacles, which have nothing to do with the seal Christ has set on you. Get rid of all the disguises of self!  (2)

I came across these two quotes this morning from St. Josemaria Escriva in two different books – one that I finished yesterday, and one that I picked up and continued in this morning.  In them, and in the passage from Matthew above, I find something that has been on my heart for a while.

We don’t understand crosses, or burdens that we are to carry.  We even label some people our crosses to bear, or our “thorns in the flesh”, as if the only reason they are in our lives is to keep us humble, broken, and praying for mercy.

In 521, St Josemaria describes that we take on problems,which we label crosses, that we think are holy burdens, but are not really.  When we find a person burdensome, bothersome, requiring great patience, when we barely tolerate his presence. If that is all we do, we haven’t born Christ’s cross, we haven’t shouldered a burden God would give us to bear.

That is not to say we do not have crosses to bear, that we are free to disobey what Christ commissions us to live, as His masterpeiece.  (see Eph 2:10)  There is a transformation in us, at our baptism, that as we live in faith causes us to take up the very crosses God has wanted us to bear, to make the sacrifices, to love, not just rolerate, the unlovable.  A cross that requires us to confront brokenness, sinfulness, not with the goal of condemnation, but with the goal of seeing people healed in Jesus Christ. To lift the weary, to nurse the sick.  These crosses take self-denial, or as it is put above, self-renunciation,  Its putting others welfare – especially their eternal welfare, before our own wants and needs.

This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:

1  Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2  I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3  Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4  And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5  The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: Philippians 2:1-5 (TEV) 

You might suggest that this is too much of a burden, that you are as unable to comply with this standard, as you are with the law of Moses. That I can’t expect sinners who are justified in Chirst to become this obedient, this transformed, this…. holy.

If that is true, why then inlude Christ’s commission to bear the cross in scripture?  Or at least have it footnoted with the statement that this is the ideal? No, this is really what Christ commissions, what he expects, Beyond the above commissions, and Eph. 2:10, and Romans 12:1-8, and all of 1 John, we could add the Beattitudes, Hebrews 12:1-3, and the list goes on.

You have a cross to take up, a place to serve, where you bring people face to face with the God who brought you to Him.

How you do it, is actually simple – you remember you are nailed to the cross with Him, that you have died, that you have risen as His.  That He never will leave us, and that as we look to Him, He transforms us into His likeness.  THe description of that is the people who take up the cross – and walk like Him.

So I encourage you… start this new year right,

Call our Lord Have Mercy, and realize that loving others is proof that He has.

 

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4024-4025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1976-1980). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Burdened? With those of Christ, or Those of the World?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) 

414         Is the burden heavy? No, a thousand times no! Those obligations which you freely accepted are wings that raise you high above the vile mud of your passions. Do the birds feel the weight of their wings? If you were to cut them off and put them on the scales you would see that they are heavy. But can a bird fly if they are taken away from it? It needs those wings and it does not notice their weight, for they lift it up above other creatures. Your “wings” are heavy too! But if you did not have them you would fall into the filthiest mire.  (1)

It’s one of the great mysteries of ministry, the ability to endure, and the strength that comes when we shoulder the burdens we are called to bear as we walk with Jesus.

There are days and weeks where pastors and others who serve the church get worn down, we are tired and weary and nearly breaking under the strain.  I saw such a week ago, at another pastor’s memorial service.  So many of my brothers looked worn down, beaten, broken.  I didn’t pay much attention to the service to be honest, as I was mostly praying for the pastors sitting on either side of me.   We are a tired bunch these days, many of us overburdened, many of us at the point where we can forget to look to Jesus.  As we forget it is He that works through us, caring for His people.

As I was reading this morning, I came to the above quote from St. Josemaria.  Having read of his life, of the existence during a civil war when brothers were dieing, of working tirelessly to see a vision where people – all people of the church realized that they were God’s worksmanship – that He had a role for each one, I realized these just weren’t words of advice.  These were words of experience, words that shared the hope of realizing that we live at our best, when we take on those burdens of Christ.

Similarly, Eugene Peterson’s translation of an oft quoted passage strike home as well.  It talks of the relationship we have with Christ.  The relationship based on letting Him lead, letting Him choose the burdens we must carry. He replaces the burdens of sin, and shame, and guilt and resentment and regret with grace, with love, with putting all that aside to walk with Him, as He re-creates lives, as He restores what was broken, as He brings healing to that which was sickened and weakened by neglect and oppression. That’s God’s work, not really ours, though often it happens as we talk, as we hold the hand of one weeping, praying for them.

The burdens we do carry… seemingly heavier than those we set down, set us soaring.  Not because they make us stronger, for that is not the nature of a wing.  Wings primarily work because they catch the wind, and the wind pressure supports them and lifts them up.  This is how the Spirit works in us, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who dwells in us, who cleanses us, who works through our words to bring people into that amazing relationship we have with God.

Ultimately, there is a time to stop, to listen to breathe.  To pick up my guitar or sit at my keyboard (music not this one) and play… and realize the God who named me as His child, who called me into this ministry, who knows what He is doing.  For if we don’t do that, surely we shall crash, surely we won’t be able to get out of the crud we entered as we ministered to people dealing with it in their lives.  It’s the lesson an old Baptist jail chaplain taught me, as we served together.  He told me when I left the jail, before I started my car to sit there, take a few moments to realize Christ’s promises to me in baptism. to remember that He has cleansed me, that He has taken all the real burdens from me, and that He will never leave me.

That’s a burden that is a blessing, and enables us to do everything else.

May you find the time today to take on His burden/blessings. AMEN

English: fragment of the Gospel of Matthew

English: fragment of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1858-1864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Burden, which isn’t a burden

 28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28 (Phillips NT)

764      Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.” (1)

Think about this for a moment.  Meditate on it and see what you come up with.

Why do we so easily claim that Jesus is God, that He is our Savior, delivering us from the bondage we are in to sin, and bringing us to the throne of God, while at the same time we struggle so much to let Him be the Master of our life, and letting Him turn our sorrows into joys, and the heavy burdens we carry in this life into something light?

Think about it.. 

No, I meant that.. think – take 180 seconds and just think through what I read above.

We all have to deal with burdens, they are there.  The aches and pains of getting older, the worry and anxiety about our children and grandchildren.  Financial struggles, Resentment and hurts, and though we know our sin is forgiven, guilt and shame from our past… or our present.

Do we realize that when we call Jesus, Lord, or Master, when we talk about living in the Kingdom of God, we are talking about His responsibility more than His authority?  That the Old and New Covenant – binds Him, by His choice, to cause us to dwell in peace, to live in His presence, to know the power of His love?  That if we are bound by the same covenant, our responsibility as loving subjects is to let Him be God, and let Him care for us?

Our actions, guided by Him, are but part of realizing that He is our Lord, our Savior, the Prince where peace reigns… in our lives?

That is why the greatest burdens don’t always seem like it.  That is why those who struggle under those burdens of life, become our burdens – for we see their toil and vanity, and know how they can find relief, and rest.

I love how Fr.Josemaria phrases it – the secret is that the burden, this cross of ours, is not ours, for we have long since abandoned ourselves in Christ – ever since we were marked in His name, as the waters of baptism poured over us.

So go on, let Christ take on your day… as you walk with Him.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Monday’s Devotion.. finally done! Compassion is not an option!

Devotional/Discussion Thought from Monday:

“If you love the Lord, you will necessarily feel the blessed burden of souls, and the need to bring them to God.” (1)

I started writing this blog on Monday, and erased it a number of times.  The burden that St. Josemarie speaks of is one every pastor knows, and every pastor struggles with often.  I dare say that elders, deacons, deaconesses and every person in the church should as well.  If such a burden is foreign, and if you catch me at a just the right moment, you will hear me agree to the statement. Even as I do, the implications of that will crush me.

The challenge of course is we hear this as “law” – and it seems to condemn us.  After all, we have been pretty well inoculated against compassion by the American Idol of “Individuality”, and it’s sub-deity “personal religion”.  That is a whole different blog – but to make it simple – we don’t believe in the community of faith any longer, we give it lip service, but do we really get it?    Being convicted by such a statement is a great tool – it is often used to raise money for overseas missions, or  for poverty or natural disaster relief. “Don’t you care about the poor, starving, homeless…” and we grab our checkbook or ATM card and pay for indulgences, American Style!

But what if St. Josemarie’s comment is actually gospel?  That is, what if the impact of knowing God’s love so radically changes us, that we are compelled to help – not just those in need in other places, but those across our fence, those down the block, those people who serve us in stores, or restaurants, or??  What if our eyes of faith saw the burdens people carry, burdens that they don’t have to bear, for Jesus already has born our burdens.  What if he is describing the effct of the cross on us, that we cannot see others living without it?

I titled this, compassion is not an option – for the one Who is compassionate toward us, God, Father Son and Holy Spirit – so loves us, that He has put His Spirit with in us.  So listen, and see, and know, the peace you have in Christ is meant for them as well.

Lord, as we cry “Lord have mercy!”  help us to realize we cry for Your mercy to be shown through us to others as well!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 446-447). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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