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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.

Struggling with Life? With relationships? Try This….

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought for our days:
8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

817         The heart! From time to time, without your being able to help it, your all too human memory casts a crude, unhappy, “uncouth” shadow on your mind. Go to the tabernacle immediately, at least in spirit, and you will return to light, happiness and Life.

It seems like everyone is getting one everyone’s nerves the days.  People are either ticked off at someone or getting ticked off at those who are ticked off at someone, or perhaps hurt that someone they care for is ticked off.

Or perhaps we are dealing with just our own brokenness, the fact that life isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Finances may be tight, work seems impossible, family demands/needs are being left behind and we can’t keep up.  And the stress we are under causes us to struggle with those around us.

Life simply isn’t supposed to be like this.

St. Josemaria mentions this morning that our heart can cast shadows on our mind.  He notes we are helpless to stop these shadows, our memories, as our brokenness affects our thoughts and how we live.

St Josemaria directs us to go to the tabernacle, a place where we are reminded of CHrist’s love, of His sacrifice, of His presence.  Luther would have you go to your baptismal font for the same, my preference is the altar rail, where you receive Christ’s body and blood.  where you are told your sins are forgiven because Jesus loves you enough to die for you.

These sacramental places, even if we only spend time there in our thoughts help us get our lives back on track, as we think about our Lord, His love, His mercy, His promise to never leave us or forsake us. It is at those places where our burdens are lifted, that the glory of God enlightens our soul, removing the darkness and all that the darkness it casts.  These moments of sacred time are anchor points in our lives, the places 

This is what Paul is talking about when he urges us to think about true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable. excellent and praiseworthy.  It gets back to realizing that those things in life come to us because God is with us. 

He is with us….

And nothing can separate us from Him…..

So go there, to the places where you know you will encounter His grace.  Even if you cannot physically go, remember the last time you were there, and knew God’s peace. He’s still with you, wherever you are at…You just need ot know that!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3371-3374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Surviving Cloudy, Dark, Hopeless Mondays

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

Devotional Thought of the Day

24  He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25  Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.     1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)

241      If the outlook in your interior life, in your soul, is darkened, allow yourself to be led along by the hand, as a blind man would do. In time the Lord will reward this humble surrendering of your own judgment by giving you clarity of mind. (1)

I took a class a year ago on the text of St John of the Cross’s spiritual classic called Dark Night of the Soul. It was a hard read, not because of the language, but because it opened parts of my life where I need to let the Holy Spirit bring comfort and peace, cleansing them and helping us find God.  Yes, even there we can find Him.

As the Apostle Peter says, He is the Guardian of our souls.

In these days where everything seems broken, we need to understand that role that Jesus has in our lives.  It doesn’t matter whether the brokenness that clouds our Mondays is global, national, in our community or our church, or simply in the depth of our heart and soul, He is there.

Despite our sin, despite the injustice that oppresses us.  He is there.

It doesn’t matter if it is 2:30 AM, and we can’t sleep, or Monday morning when caffeine doesn’t seem to help us overcome our…. Mondayness.

He is there, guarding us, protecting us, providing for us, caring for us and bringing us the healing our souls so desperately cry out for, whether we allow them to do so audibly, or bury it and let it cry through our bodies.

He is there. He is caring for you, for me.

St Josemaria explains this using the idea of our being blinded – and there are times where surely I am spiritually.  The spiritual equivalent to the wasteland of a Monday, where nothing makes sense, nothing motivates, nothing is hoped for or planned for in our lives.  Where we might be in that wasteland, and so deprived of hope that we don’t care it is Monday. The key then is to allow Him to shepherd us, to guide our steps.

This is faith, the trust, the dependence on God.  It requires knowing those promises He has made us, that nothing can separate us from Him, that He will complete the work He began in us, that He will never leave us, never forsake us.

Here He is, guarding our hearts, our minds, our souls.  He is guiding us, and as we feel the warmth of His glorious mercy and love, we find peace….and hope.

Even on a dark, cloudy, Monday….

Lord, have mercy upon us, and reveal Your care and work as our guardian!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1021-1023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s time to come home… coming to our senses about sin and the family of God

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:
17  Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. 18  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” ‘ 20  So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:17-20 (NAB)

985    You strayed from the way and did not return because you were ashamed. It would be more logical if you were ashamed not to return.

Why, Then, is the Law to Be Taught, and What is Its Legitimate Use?
I. That people might learn from the Law seriously to acknowledge both their manifold sins and the judgment of God against sins, namely that they are subject to divine wrath and the curse or eternal condemnation, unless they are set free through Christ, so that they thus turn themselves away from sins, fear the wrath of God, and seek the true physician who alone can heal our weaknesses. Ro 3:20; 4:15; 2 Co 3:6–9; Eze 18:30–31; Mt 9:12.
II. That the Law, written by the finger of God, might be for the reborn a sure norm and rule, showing which works God has prepared, in which He wants the reborn to walk and serve Him. Dt 12:32; Eze 20:19; Ro 13:8; Cl 2:20–23.

He came to his senses. We need to do the same. 

Growing up 40-45 years ago, there was a rule in our home, be back int he house before dark.  We lived on 3 hilly wooded acres in New Hampshire, and darkness fell fast, there was nothing like lingering twilight in the, once the sun went down, darkness descended, and it was a black darkness.  

More than once, I would leave too late to get home before darkness caught me.  Once i remember sitting in the small ancient cemetery (newest grave was 1810 or so) a half mile down the road, fearing what my arrival home would bring.  As a side note, I don’t recommend sitting in a dark cemetery with huge creaky oak trees blotting out the moonlight.

Car lights could be seen, and I feared each one would contain my parents, out searching for their young rebellious, disobedient son. After about an hour passed by, as the night was getting colder, desperation would force me to leave my refuge, and walk my huffy bicycle home. 

As I walked by my neighbors, looking in their windows, I wondered if they knew of my misadventure if my folks had checked with the Stobers and the Zahns.  Eventually, I tried to figure if I could sneak in, through the basement sliding glass door, or maybe through the studio or kitchen door.  But I made it home, and at first hugged, then scolded, then hugged again, I was finally safe, and the anxiety could fade away.

This is how we treat God, whether we’ve run far off, or whether we are hiding deep inside our own hearts as we sit in church on Sunday morning.  St Josemaria tells us our shame should have driven us home, desperately seeking refuge, rather than ensnared us and kept us anxious, cold, hungry and left…. outside, tormented, and scared what would happen when we finally arrived home. 

As a pastor, there is a need for me to teach people that the best place for them to be, when struggling with sin, is in the midst of God’s family.  There, mercy and peace is waiting.  Forgiveness and love will be manifest.  Chemnitz was correct, where the Law serves properly when it moves believers from remaining in sin to remember they are set free from sin by Jesus, and enables them to respond to that mercy and love.  That it shows them they can seek the healing of their hearts and souls, for this is why Jesus reaches out to them.

People need to know that church is a safe haven fro sinners, a place where they aren’t going to be condemned for being snared by sin, but where they will find peace, as others similarly wounded assist them, and help them depend on Jesus.  

This is the church, this is the Father’s home, where we find His compassion.

So come home, enter the warmth and light, and know love and peace…. it’s time.

And if you see me or anyone else hiding behind a tombstone, bring us home too.

For we all get caught in the darkness from time to time.

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 2290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition 
Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

I can see! A sermon to start Epiphany (based on Isaiah 60)

church at communion 2I Can See!  The Darkness is Gone!
Isaiah 60:1-6

In Jesus Name

May God’s glory, His mercy and Love revealed in Jesus, may that glory shine so brightly in your life, that even the darkest shadows are forgotten!

 Sunrise @ Concordia

One of the blessings I never expected when I came to Concordia was the incredible sunrises I would see on Sunday mornings.  Sometimes it is the sun breaking through the crowds, other times the entire sky looks like it is on fire.

There are times Dane will come out of the MPR and find me with my camera or my phone, trying to capture the incredibly beautiful blessing that so few see.

Though I hate getting up that early, there is a blessing that is so incredible, when a pitch black dark night is shattered by the sunrise

And that is what we celebrate during the weeks of Epiphany.

This feast which celebrates Christ entering the world and the glorious love of God being visible, being seen, drawing people to Him…

From the wise men whose arrival starts Epiphany, to the apostles who will witness the transfiguration, which we will celebrate 8 weeks from now, we are talking about the glory of God, shining in our lives, because Jesus is here!

and so Isaiah’s words are so meaningful and relavent to us,

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!

Or maybe we should read it this way!

“Arise, Concordia! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!

Time for the homecoming

Growing up, we would love electricity because of snowstorms.  Tree branches would get heavy with snow and ice, crashing down on power lines which would have to be replaced.  During the darkness you couldn’t do anything, but when the sun rose, life would return to normal.

It would be back to splitting wood for the woodstove and fireplace.  It would be cooking food to feed those who were out shoveling the snow, it would be having friends stop by, driving their trucks or skimobiles.

So too, when we realize that God has shined on us, that Jesus has come, and we have beheld His glory, that it is time to get ready.

For God tells us what is going to happen next,

All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance!

“Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home!

They are all coming – as they see God’s light – God’s glory shining here in this place.  As we realize what God has done, and is doing here, as we realize the glorious love He has for us, everything changes, and it is noticeable!

Others see it, and they will be drawn to His glory, like a moth to a flame, or like certain guy’s attention can be gotten by announcing a football score, or a child to a stuffed animal.

God’s glory will gather attention, and it will draw people to the place where it is seen, where it is made manifest, where it brings light and warmth and peace and love.

I love how Isaiah describes the homecoming, as sons and daughters are returned home.  What he is talking about is those of us like the prodigal son, who went our own way, and did what we thought was right.  Who either rebelled against God our father or simply ignored Him.

But as God’s glory is revealed, as the grace and mercy of God are revealed and remembered, the prodigals come home.  His love draws us back, hoping that we will be welcomed, unaware that God’s love for them has not dimmed.

The picture of the daughters being carried home is the same, as the Holy Spirit brings them home, those who strayed and wandered, those who were lost and without hope.

For those of us who have come home, to find God’s people waiting for us with open arms, it is something we never forget, this love of God shown through His people.  For we see them as Isaiah describes,

Your eyes will shine, and your heart will thrill with joy,

When someone “comes home”, when their darkness is shattered by God’s glory, by the light of the world which is Jesus, that should be our reaction!  Our brother or sister has been brought home, and we begin to rejoice like the angels in heaven, indeed all of heaven does.

It’s time to worship the Lord

As we see that happen, we begin to rejoice, we begin to praise God. For the darkness is no more, even the shadows of darkness fade in the light that has revealed to us Christ, this glorious light that guides us to him.

Sometimes the words in Greek and Hebrew have a meaning that is deeper than we remember – and so it is with the word for praising God – it is to cry Alleluia or Hallelujah!

Hallel means to recognize the incredible thing that someone has done, the deeds that deserve to be shouted from the rooftops.

and Yah – well that is short for YHWH – God’s name.

To praise Him, for shattering our darkness with His light, with His glory….

The glory of the incredible thing that happens as Jesus dies to bear our sins, as he takes on himself our unrighteousness,  and is risen from the dead to give us life, to restore us from our brokenness.  His glorious work as the Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin, gives us life and lives within us,

This is Epiphany! When we realize the glory of God is His love for us, seen in the work He does in us, a work that shines through us to the world.

So,

“Arise, Concordia! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you!

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you!

AMEN!

The Hard Lesson of Life…. Perspective

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

In describing the spirit of the association to which I have devoted my life, Opus Dei, I have said that it hinges upon ordinary work, professional work carried out in the midst of the world. God’s calling gives us a mission: it invites us to share in the unique task of the Church, to bear witness to Christ before our fellow men and so draw all things toward God. Our calling discloses to us the meaning of our existence. It means being convinced, through faith, of the reason for our life on earth. Our life, the present, past, and future, acquires a new dimension, a depth we did not perceive before. All happenings and events now fall within their true perspective: we understand where God is leading us, and we feel ourselves borne along by this task entrusted to us. God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, he calls us with a strong voice, as he once called Peter and Andrew: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”11 He who lives by faith may meet with difficulty and struggle, suffering and even bitterness, but never depression or anguish, because he knows that his life is worthwhile, he knows why he has been born. “I am the light of the world,” Christ exclaimed. “He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (1)

It is challenging to me to think of myself as a work of art, never mind God’s work of art.

And it is hard to see what I am doing as ‘good works”, in fact, I sometimes wonder if I am the opposite to King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold and everything I touch collapses, or breaks, or needs to have toilet paper applied.

I understand all too well St Josemaria’s description of groping through history, dwelling in the shadows of ignorance. Even as He draws me, there is a reluctance to enter the brilliance of His glory, the glory He would share with all of His people.

But I have to realize that He is more reliable than I am, that His will is being accomplished, and should I humbly focus on my journey with Him, the very places we go together, the people we talk to, are part of His making my life a work of art. Walking with Him means having the challenge and pain of loving people – including those who consider themselves unlovable  I know their pain, as does about every person I have met in life.

That’s why, as we are transformed, faith also accepts that what we can perceive is not all there is to the story.  That God is doing something very special in our lives, giving us a meaning we can’t see, because the artwork isn’t finished yet.

Knowing that means that I can accept that the potter knows what He is doing – that His vision for my life, my vocation can be vastly different from His.  But he is the designer, the architect, the Creator, and I am but His creation.

A creation so beautiful in His eyes, that He would share HIs glory with me, and will all who are His people.  That is what I have to remember as I skirt in and out of the shadows, as I wonder what He has in mind, and what He is doing. I even come to realize the reason I am allowed to hang out in these shadows, is to reflect His glory into the dark places, where other masterpieces lurk, afraid to come into the light, afraid to be seen, unaware that they are meant to be His people and He, their God.

In baptism – He cleansed me of all my sin and the unrighteousness of the world, and the struggle to see my life from His perspective is a challenge.  Even so, the work is His, the promise to see it through is His. I’ve learned to trust Him, will learn it some more.

it is an interesting life… challenging.. and yet with Him?  Incredible.  For He heals the broken, and uses them to bring healing to others!

AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1411-1423). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Imitate God – Live a Life filled with love

Imitate God
Live a Life Filled With Love!

Ephesians 4:17–5:2

In Jesus Name

This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.


The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him

It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.

Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.

For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.

That’s a compliment.

Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.

Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.

Those are compliments as well!

Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?

That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!

In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic.  One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.

One is imitating the Gentiles.

The other is imitating God.

One possible, the other insanity….

Imitating the World is Simply Playing God  The Sin of Self Idolatry

Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles.  Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.

It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.

Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them.  Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame.  They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.

As long as it meets what they consider their needs….

Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want.  It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own.  Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says.  Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.

That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.

But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.

Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.

Look at this carefully

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,

Now, let’s think about this.  You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!

And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.

The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.

If we are honest, we struggle with it as well.  It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break.  Temptations can be hard to overcome.

Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22.  Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours.  The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction.  The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.

The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely.  It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.

But there is an option to imitating the world.

Imitating God  The life of the Transformed

We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.

The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God.  That is sin.

But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus.  That requires something important.  You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin.  It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.

A transformation that begins when you were baptized.

A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,

let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

and

Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ.  It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism.   It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.

For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must.  It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!

Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.

Because we are imitating God.

Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…

This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.

We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love,

AMEN!

A Way to Deal with Spiritual Insomnia…

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

27  Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? 28  Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe. 29  If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. 30  That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (MSG)

1 It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.[2]

They should, therefore, constantly exert themselves to have the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist and thus become a firmly-knit body in the unity of the charity of Christ.9 “Intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer10 and through the reception of the sacraments may grow in grace and be faithful witnesses to the Lord.[3]

316    You tell me: “Yes, I want to!” Good. But do you “want to” as a miser wants his gold, as a mother wants her child, as a worldling wants honors, or as a poor sensualist wants his pleasure? No? Then you don’t “want to”!

It was a long time ago, thirty-five years ago when the nights seemed so long.  I was young, working as a dishwasher at a Denny’s back in New Hamshire.  I worked the graveyard shift, the eleven to seven am a shift.  I would go from there off to high school.  There was a point on those nights, I can never forget.

When you work those shifts, or if you are just having a tough time sleeping, there is a time where the darkness begins to crush you.  It is about two hours before the sunrise, until the moment the hint of dawn starts to lighten the sky.  I would run up the ladder, get out on the roof, and watch the miracle of a sunrise.
But oh, the pressure of night in the two hours of the night!  It causes a sense almost like claustrophobia, as you wonder whether the night will ever end.

As I read the first quote above, the psalmist is comparing his hunger for God’s presence to the night guard waiting for dawn, those feelings resonated within me.  And It resonated so much, that the blog came about.

I think there are times we get spiritual insomnia.  We forget God is here, and we get overwhelmed by the darkness that is in life.  The evil that casts it dark shadow over us, that would oppress us with that same feeling that occurs in the hours before dawn.  The more the darkness crushes us, the harder it is to remember that dawn is coming, the harder it is to remember His light has shown in our lives… and still does.

No wonder Paul will talk of those who have fallen asleep and even died because they didn’t recognize the Body and Blood of Christ!

I put two quotes, after the scripture quotes, one from the Lutheran Book of Concord, one from the Roman Catholic documents.  Both talk of the strength found in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist  The strengthening of faith, the communion that grows strong among the people of God. It is something we agree on, this recognition of God’s presence, and His work in our lives.   His supernatural work seen as the Holy Spirit, strengthens, cleanses, heals, comforts and makes new.

The God we encounter as we are fed His Body and His Blood.

As His light again is brought into our lives.

As it shatters that darkness that we feel crushing us.  I’ve been in those darks nights, I’ve felt the pressures, the anxieties, both from physical darkness and spiritual darkness.  Perhaps that is why I so desire and love to share in Communion, why I appreciate it so much.  It is more refreshing than even the dawn.

So run to the altar, desire God’s presence as St Josemaria challenges us to desire it.  Even as that desire grows, know how He comes to you, through His Word, through His sacraments,

And find the rest those who work at night find, as their day ends with the dawn.

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 35). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

9 Pius XII’s encyclical letter, Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947: A.A.S. 39 (1947) p. 97 ff.; Paul VI’s encyclical letter, Mysterium Fidei, Sept. 3, 1965.

10 cf. Acts 1:14 and 2:46.

[2] Catholic Church. (2011). Decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church: Christus Dominus. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Are We So Afraid of Our Darkness?

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
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11  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12  but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (NLT)

“Nobody is wise who does not know the darkness.  I appreciate the dark hours of my existence in which my senses are sharpened.”  (1)

678      From Saint Paul’s teaching, we know that we have to renew the world in the spirit of Jesus Christ, that we have to place Our Lord at the summit and at the heart of all things. Do you think you are carrying this out in your work, in your professional task?

Some recent events corresponded to my devotional readings this morning.

The thing we have in common is the darkness that affects our lives. In some cases, it may be depression, or loneliness. It could also be grief, and dealing with the threat of death, or death itself.  It can also be dealing with the consequences of sin, and falling in times of great temptation.

Each of these times have their own level of darkness, and we encounter them in life.  They are there, unavoidable. Yes, even Christians have to deal with the darkness of life, the despair that can creep up and oppress us,

The challenge is not the darkness, but rather in not facing the darkness,  It isn’t the pain and anxiety the darkness can cause, but in trying to become comfortable with it, rather than being comforted as we endure it.

In one of my devotions, quoted above in green bold print, there was the comment that we can find our senses sharpened by the darkness.  Based on the rest of the reading this doesn’t mean we look to embrace the darkness, but rather that there, acknowledging the darkness, we become more aware of God’s presence, as God comforts us, protects us, gives our hearts and minds peace that is…supernatural, unexplainable, glorious.

THe pslamist knew this as well, for even that darkness cannot stop God, He sees us, hears our cries.  The Hly Spirit, the gift of our baptism, the one called the Paraclete, the comforter, comes an supports us, and we become aware of it as well.
The Spirit of God reminds us of all the promises given to us, as we are united with Christ, in His death, in His resurrection, and even while we await for His return. (Check our Colossians 3:1-3 about this – it is amazing!)  This is why the promise of baptism is so… incredible.

Darkness and light in our lives fade in their meaning, as we realize the presence of God.  His presence, His glory.

If we hide in the darkness, if we ignore its oppression, if we try to make people comfortable with it, by diminishing the pain, diminishing the horror, discounting the anxiety and angst, we are not doing them any good.  Trauma sucks, Depression is scary and overwhelming.  Loneliness is something beyond which we normally can deal with, even introverts. Grave illness and death cause our souls to shrink and become almost fetal as we fear that which we cannot overcome.  And sin destroys.

Unless the glorious healing power of Jesus presence is known.  Unless we realize that He is here, caring for us, our wonderful Lord and Savior, who does reign.  Who is, as Escriva writes, the heart and summit of all things.

So even in the darkness, He is there… eliminating it.

The words of Hebrews 12 come so clearly to mind>

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

and take great joy – here is that verse from Colossians

1  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

And rejoice, and sing His praises, for as we endure the darkness of our lives, the lives in which He is the Lord, the darkness simply helps us be aware of His work in our lives……

To Him who sits on the throne, be all glory and honor and praise…. AMEN

(1)  From Celtic Daily Book, devotional for 1/8 Finian Series

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2501-2504). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do I Survive the Dark Times

Devotional Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday
4  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6  God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9  The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:4-9 (NLT)

862         When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, Domine, ut videam!—Lord, that I may see… And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.  (1)

When darkness hides His shining face, I’ll rest on his unending grace….. (2)


I’ll admit, even as a Christian there are times when darkness settles in, where my soul is restless, anxious, stressed.  Where the struggles of life get to me, and I can’t abide the stillness I need, the quiet I need to be able to listen, and hear the still small voice of God.  To be able to see through the blinding darkness, to be even able to see enough to fire off an emergency flare.

This world’s evil can do that to us, as can grief, as can unresolved brokeness, and unreconciled sin.  We live as aliens in this world, and it is a world that is plunged into darkness.

Because we have been in the light, these momentary (compared to eternity) moments scare us, frighten us, disorient us.  We don’t know how to deal with it, because we know life, the life we have been given in Christ.   This isn’t it.

Yet out of such times come hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”,  “It is Well”, “Amazing Grace”, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand”,  the great Psalms 8, 51, 139, modern praise lament music by people like Michael Card, Tori Hunter, and Casting Crowns. (Can anyone hear her?) All are written from insid e the darkness, even as the faint ligtht is seen, even as the cries we’ve poured out with all that is within us come to being.

We might recognize this on our days in the light, but it takes a trust that is well acquainted with God’s nature, that has experienced being pulled out of the darkmess to relax, to be still, to know that God is there, even when we can’t feel it, even when darkness is suffocating us. And even then, in those first moements when the storms crash, when the waves threaten, when darkness coalesces and gains strength, we can lose sight of who we know, and His history of rescuing us from sin, and Satan’s attacks, and the anxiety of death.

It is at that time we need to remember that we can cry out, that it is not a sign of surrendering to our problems, or the darkness, but a realization that only God’s light can penetrate it, only His light can alleiviate it.  Only His love can bring us the assurance that we are in His care.  The situation may not change, but His light, His promises, His word, His presence makes all the difference!

So we learn to wait, with expectation, with the knowledge that God’s plan will see you through the time.  Hear the voices of people sent to minister to you, to bring that light.  Be still, know He is God…. and that His light will indeed shine.

 

  • Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3533-3536). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  • Lyrics to On Christ the Shining Rock
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