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Impatience, Broken hearts and Christian Ministry.

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Devotional thought of the day:

3  There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, 4  and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 5  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! 6  Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.  Romans 5:3-6 (MSG)

The world is cold and seems to be asleep. You often look on it, from your vantage point, with a glance that would set it on fire. Lord, may it awaken! Channel your bursts of impatience and be sure that if we manage to keep our whole life alight, we shall set every corner of the world alight, and the way it all looks will change.  (1)

By no means am I naturally patient.  It is not the gift I’ve been given, and  this is seen quite easily.  This morning, getting some lab work done, I was frustrated that there were 4 others before me.  I know ther has been as many as 20 before, but this morning, with places to go, people to minister to – waiting 10 minutes seemed like a month.

I am especially impatient when it comes to dealing with pain.  You know – the physical pain of them drawing blood ( 4  quart vials it seemed like! ) Or the spiritual pain of grieving, or the pastoral heart pain of watching people choose to do that which will hurt them.

“Why won’t they listen?” we ask.
“Why won’t they at least try it God’s way?”
“when will they ‘get it’?

Every minister I know has suffered from such impatience, such heart break as people continue to choose their own way.

Most of us have been tempted to hammer them, to “use the law” to crush them until they repent, until they conform to God’s plan. (or at least ours)   We want to find something to do to turn them into “supersaints”, to help them overcome all their sin,, to get their acts right and for them to become the next Billy Grahams.   We want that prodigal to turn for home as soon as he gets to the end of the driveway.  It doesn’t always work that way though.

But can we have God’s patience, the father’s patience with them, and still pray and encourage and take the moments we have to call them back to Christ?

It’s hard… its really hard…dang it, it’s hard.

The apostle Paul notes it as well,

18  I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, 19  keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. 20  Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming.  1 Timothy 1:18-20 (MSG) 

What a challenge this is!  How our soul, itself broken and impatent, struggles with such days of ministry!  Yet, learning to discern when to speak – and how to speak, and when to let the prodigal go is a skill that comes with maturity.

I find it interesting that Romans finds the solution in trusting Christ, in looking to His promises, the work we expect that He will do, in any time of trial, and that includes this one.

Escriva’s comment is similar – that we funnel our impatience into our own life, opening it up to see God work in us.   TO see God eradicate our own sin, and the things that would quench our spirit. Paul mentions this proactively to TImothy as well, telling Timothy not to walk down the road where these brothers walked….

As I thought through this… I think it is an essential part of our ministry, to be ready, in season and out, whether the time is right or not in our mind.  For prodigals do return home, and we need to be aware of how we’ve been welcomed back home ourselves.

For it is in realizing the grace we’ve been given, that we find the love and mercy to welcome them home.

So pray, intercede, contemplate God’s love for them and for us and be ready…  

to rejoice in their home coming.

Lord have mercy!

 

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1424-1428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Some Advice for Surviving Mondays at Work

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

5  Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. 6  Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. 7  And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. 8  Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free. 9  Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.     Ephesians 6:5-9 (MSG) 

When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: “May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.” These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?

At first, the scripture passage from Ephesians and the quote from Josemaria may seem dissonant, or at least unrelated.

But as I consider this particular Monday morning, they resonate completely.

It is easy, as an employee or the boss, to view our work from what benefits me, that its all about me getting done what I need to get done.  We will do a good job at work, but only if we get the wage we feel we deserve.  We wil only work as a team, if we get our reward for the job well done, and not the blame when others on the team fail to work hard enough to get the team’s goal accomplished. If we are the boss, it’s easy to expect people to go beyond the average and do their best – without our having to invest ourselves in them.

The answer to being a good boss, or a good employee (and some of us are called to be both) lies not in ourselves.  It is found in Christ, it has to be, we have to trust Him.   For the one who believes and trusts in Christ – this is our core value.  This relationship with God is how we define ourselves.  It is what gives us the strength to both know the truth, and to be honest about it.  Without knowing this, how can we address our own faults, be honest and work sacrificially, and in th best interests of those around us?  How can we find the humility to serve, and the strength and patience to work through things.

It is only in trusting Christ, it is only in seeking first His mastery, His reign, His Kingdom, that this can happen.  It is only realizing that He is the one we answer to in life – and that His standards are far different and far higher than our own, or those of our earthly bosses.

Look at Christ – the best of servants – who gave up everything not for His own success, but for the success of those who failed the Boss.  Look at Christ the Boss, who trained His servants to the point they were willing to die to achieve that which Christ wanted – the reconciliation of the world.

Believers – seek Him first, find yourself in His presence! Know His love for you…. and work with Him by your side…

Godspeed this Monday.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 966-968). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Abandoned to God

Devotional thought of the day:

“Put your head frequently round the oratory door to say to Jesus… I abandon myself into your arms. Leave everything you have—your wretchedness!—at his feet. In this way, in spite of the welter of things you carry along behind you, you will never lose your peace.”   (1)

As I review some of my history, in preparing for the remembrance of the Reformation, I dare wonder what would happen if Martin Luther and St. Josemarie Escriva would meet.  (Some Lutherans and some Roman Catholics could not see this occur, yet I wonder)  For both seem driven in their lives –  to connect people to Chrsit, to reveal to them the love of God, that they may live and love Him in return.

Among all the things that they have in common, from being called beasts of burdens, to their dedication to connect people to Christ, to these incredible words – this idea of being abandoned to God, to be stripped of all that isn’t of Christ. It is not an obligation, bu an invitation to an incredible blessing!

It sounds painful, yet Escriva would tell us that can we be released of all that would constrain us, we would know peace.  The words of Hebrews 12 encourage the same…

“With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NJB) 

He has taken his seat there, our Advocate, our Paraclete, given us the Holy Spirit, and is our Lord, our Master. Not to reign over us like a dictator, but to care and provide for us, the head of our family, the Spirit being the “giver of life” and that life the one acquired for us.

My friends, abandon yourself to His mercy, to His grace, to His work redeeming and restoring us to the Father, to His work so beautifully described in Ephesians 2,

2:10 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) 

Let Jesus strip you of that which causes anxiety, that which causes shame and guilt and despair,the sin and idolatry, including self idolatry….. and know His peace and joy, as yourself in His presence.

AMEN

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1235-1238). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Secret to Loving and Serving Others

Devotional thought for the day:

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? 13 You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 14 If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”   John 13:12-15 (NJB) (

Consider listening to this song –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I47c29GvFY while reading this blog

The church has been designed to be a community, a place where people have learned to lay aside their wants and desires, and serve others, to nurture others, to imitate Christ’s life, and the blunt clear lessons like the one in John 13 – where he washes the cracked, dry, smelling feet of men who hadn’t learned yet to love, to be in a relationship – not just with their Lord, but with each other.  THe lesson is harsh, and convicting, how often are we willing to get down on our knees, and deal with the muck those we are called to love have walked through?

It cannot be done, not in our own strength at least.  Their burdens are too heavy, their pains too deep, the crap in their lives can, indeed cause us to turn away, spiritually and physically nauseated, disgusted.  Or we wonder why, as Michael Card sings, we have to do this day after day, after day…..

So where do we find the strength to obey?  Where do we find the power to live lives in this holy manner?

A catholic priest once wrote:
“When you start out each day to work by Christ’s side and to look after all those souls who seek him, remember that there is only one way of doing it: we must turn to the Lord. Only in prayer, and through prayer, do we learn to serve others!” (1)

That’s the answer – through prayer – through intimate conversation, through communion/fellowship – through letting Christ wash our feet,through letting him, remove our burdens, through letting Him still – clean up those parts of our lives that have gotten dry, broken, blistered, smelly….. through letting Him be God.  It is the only way, as St. Josemarie told us, to find the strength to serve, to be there for people, to bring healing and love to their lives.  We don’t have the strength

We have to let Jesus do that to us….cleanse us, heal us…

and then, the Holy Spirit will work through us to do the same for others.

And oh the joy, oh the inexpressible joy that comes from seeing others cleansed, and counted holy and righteous.

It sends you right back in prayer, to the throne of God, to praise and glorify Him!

Lord, show us Your mercy… even as You work through us to bring that mercy to those we serve around us!

 

 

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 474-476). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Post 100! A Challenge..rejoice in trials

Devotional thought of the day:

Wow, it’s post 100, averaging some 20 hits, plus those 40 that are subscribed by email.  Every continent has seen my blog  – including countries that are amazing to me.  Some blogs have gotten a ton of hits – the most about my death 20 years ago, some have have only received 3 or 4.   I guess, as I look back – some were good (praise God for those) and some…well sucked. (Blame me.)  What to talk about on #100?  The following quote stuck out in some reading yesterday.
“To follow Christ—that is the secret. We must accompany him so closely that we come to live with him, like the first Twelve did; so closely that we become identified with him…. But do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon his cross. When we abandon ourselves into God’s hands, he frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, ridicule, coming both from within and from outside. This is because he wants to mold us into his own image and likeness. He even tolerates that we be called lunatics and be taken for fools.”     de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-18). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume III, The Divine Ways on Earth (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 7632-7638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There are days I wish that our Lord wouldn’t permit so many trials in the lives of the people I pastor (whether they are part of my congregation or those…that would be..yet…) TO be honest, it can get very tiring to watch, to spend time in prayer for, to try and stand by their side, (when they let me know they are going through it.)  While our confidence is in God, it is in such times that such confidence is shaky, not in God, but in us.   Yet the closer we are to Him, the more dependent it seems the more burdens we have to endure, the more challenges we come across…..

As I serve and observe people going through such times, as my heart breaks for them, I have found something out.  Theologically speaking, this becomes a “first commandment issue”.  Can we let God be God?  Can we give to our Father the recognition that He does reign over us, but to accept that in His reigning, it is His responsibility to make these things a blessing, something good for us, even as we do not see it?  Can we say, not my will, but thine, realizing that it means we are not just ceding what we are going through, but as well – ceding complete control over how it works out?

That is what Jesus had to do at the cross – ultimately – in His humanity He had to entrust Himself to the Father, and know that it was the Father’s plan to do something wonderful.

In trusting the Father, in the midst of trials, in hearing the Holy Spirit’s comforting voice, in realizing we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection, the outcome of the trial is one thing we don’t have to concern ourselves with.

And trusting in the Father, knowing His promises, we can dwell in His joy and in His peace…

Knowing that He has promised us life, we can cry, “Lord have mercy!”… and rest in the sure knowledge of His love.

The Power and Mean to Accomplish Great Things

Discussion/Devitional Thought of the Day:

I used to have big dreams of doing great things.  When I was my sons age,I dreamt of being a president like Abraham Lincoln, just a few years later – a priest whose sermons would change the world, like some of those I read about in school.  Time and distance changes some of those dreams, and some of us have left dreams behind.  I do not think today I could be a politician, never mind a president – the public is far too mean – and doesn’t respect the office, or the burden it carries – and being a priest – well,…..

But does that mean we have to give up trying to accomplish great things?

Or do we realize how great the normal things God calls us to do are?  Like loving our neighbor, like helping those who find themselves without the ability, even for the moment – to help themselves.  It is my opinion, that visiting someone who is a shut in, or sitting by a stranger at church is worth more than 10,000 facebook forwards, or eating at a restaurant whose owners are undersiege.

Even greater, forgiving that adversary, working to reconcile a couple of friends, telling someone of God’s grace.  These are the great things… things that take sacrifice, things that may actually cost us.  And that gets to the point of this entry, the thing I would have us discuss- how do we accomplish the greatest things in life?

One author put it this way:

” 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?”    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1152). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Cross and the Gospel – the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross – that is where our sins our forgiven.  The cross which we are linked to in our baptism – where we were united to Christ’s suffering and death, that we would be untied to His resurrected life.  And of course in the Feast where we know that sacrifice  In this cross – where God comes to us and transforms us – they are the means by which God enables us to do the great things He has planned for us to do.

And the Gospel is that same “means”.  The incredible news of God’s love, of His mercy, of His grace. The news that He has come – and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, even as we will one day share in it.

Comprehending that through the cross, through the gospel, Jesus comes to us, bonds us to Himself and changes us – it is in this that we find our strenghth, our life, our hope…. and the power and means to accomplish the greatest things, the very things God has planned from long ago to do… because He has sent you to do them.

One last thought from St. Josemarie, a prayer:

“Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard, make us love all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood – and then cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day, for the Love of You.  Amen!  ( Escriva  – The forge)

A New Characteristic: Holy Shamelessness

Discussion, Devotional thought of the day:

I came across this concept, this description of a characteristic of the faith a few times recently. Here is the original:

” Holy shamelessness is characteristic of the life of childhood. A little child doesn’t worry about anything. He makes no effort to hide his weaknesses, his natural weaknesses, even though everyone is watching him. Shamelessness, carried to the supernatural life, suggests this train of reasoning: praise, contempt; admiration, scorn; honor, dishonor; health, illness; riches, poverty; beauty, ugliness …Well, all right, does it matter?”    Escriva, Josemaria

I find this thought somewhat deeper than it looks at first.  Shamelessness is the kind of attitude that we think means we don’t care about what we’ve done, we simply live in the moment without thinking of consequences.  Is that the kind of characteristic we should show the world?

in a real supernatural sense I believe we should.  YOu see, if we truly trust that Jesus Christ has justified us, that He can and does deal with our sin and all the unrighteousness in our lives, then according to Him, there is nothing to be ashamed of – we are cleanse, justified, righteous, and we can – with a child like faith, go about the day, trying to please the One who loves us.

It is when we allow our lives to be manipulated by what may appear shameful, when we are concerned with what others think of our behavior – then we have lost the freedom Christ gives.  When we are bound by fears and anxieties of what others will think – our focus has gone astray, and we aren’t thinking like children of God.  We  will realize, that we have bought into something that isn’t shameless – but shameful.

And then – cry Lord have mercy, know He has – and walk away, skip away and worship the One who has freed you!

 

 

A Source of Brokenness: Who do you belong to?

Discussion thought of the day

“You don’t want to submit yourself to the will of God, and instead you adapt yourself to the will of anybody, and everybody”  Escriva

In the 1930’s the Biritsh Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, thought the way to peace was to appease Hitler, to give into his little demands, to sacrifice others that Hitler would find contentment.  It didn’t work of course, and the world was plunged into war.  I think many of us do that today.  Our friends are doing something we know is wrong, and we are quiet, afraid to destroy the relationship, yet all the time fearing for the consequences we know will come.  We give in to our children’s demands, thinking that a moment of respite and quiet is worth it, rather than engage in disciplining them. We make deals all the time, with the illusion that it will bring peace, and minimize the impact on our lives.

Except of course, we don’t bow to God, we don’t listen to the one who designed us, and we get mad at Him when peace isn’t there.  He points to simple things – love Him, love your neighbor, and points out the critical ways that can be done and lets us know we don’t have to submit to other God’s, we can use His name to praise and pray to Him instead of using it as a cuss word, we can cherish the blessings of marriage and life. We don’t have to covet other people’s lives and reputations….

DO these things, live in the way He designed, and there is peace.

If you don’t, confess them and He will provide the gift of cleaning it up, and making it right,

But we don’t even like that.  “why do I have to confess my sins” they cry!  “I don’t need a pastor, or a church, my relationship is with God!”  I guess, but even in saying that, the self-centered focus is turning down the gifts of God, and my expectation is the time you could have spent with God’s people, the burdens you have, the guilt and shame  – you will continue to bear as you bow to others agendas, and you appease them, for an illusion of peace in that moment.  The reality of it is, we belong to whomever we try to appease or submit to…

My friends, let God be God, submit to Him, look to His wisdom and promises….. when you belong to Him, the peace isn’t momentary, nor an illusion.  It is peace in the middle of storms, and through them.  It is real peace in life.

And in crying “Lord have mercy,” we acknowledge we belong to Him, when we confess our sins, looking for and receiving His love and compassion and comfort – we realize it again.  When we take part in the family of God, celebrating His presence, His promises, His gifts, the same – we revel in His being our Master, our Lord, our Savior.

SO this morning – who will you belong to?

The Cry of our Brokenness: Pt 2

Devotional/Discussoin thought of the day:

“”Domine – ‘Lord’ Si vis potes me mundare – ‘If you will, you can make me clean!’

What a beautiful prayer for you to say often with the faith of the poor leper, when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen.  You waon’t wait long to hear the Master’s reply:  “Volo Mundare’- ‘I will!  Be made clean'”  (escriva)

As I have been writing on brokenness this week, (and having to deal with it in my life, and in others, I came to this quote in my devotions this morning.  As a pastor who knows the blessing of the sacrament of Confession and Absolution, it is in those italicized words that I see what needs to be heard. and heard loudly.  When dealing with sin, there are three options.

The first is to claim it isn’t sin, that God didn’t really mean to label that as sin, and therefore it isn’t.  Such is a lie, and will require many more lies and the hardening of conscience against that particular sin and many like it.  It will eventually spiral out of control – and we will find ourselves at rock bottom.  (Even there we may point to others and say they are worse off!)  In the end, we have to remember that what we’ve done is sin…and that can be more painful, and harder to deal with. ( I would highly suggest that this is one of the benefits of knowing a good pastor or priest – who can help bring the comfort of Christ’s love as you peel back the levels)

The second is to simply ignore that it is sin, to revel in its pleasure, and to find the emptiness that occurs when the pleasure fades. This results in escalation, and broadening of the sin, looking to something that satisfies even more.  Suffice it to say, this is the addictive bond that many sins have – as they are poor imitations of a blessing that is fulfilling and right, and God ordained.

The third is the most simple – and the best way, the God ordained way, to deal with those times that St Josemarie described as this, “when there happens to you what God and you and I know may happen.”  St John in his first epistle talks of this:
1:7 But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. 8 If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.1 John 1:7-9 (CEV) 

He can always be trusted to forgive us… always…ALWAYS…

My friends, we don’t have to play the games, we don’t have to deny our doubts our fears, we don’t have to hide behind words that betray us, clinging stubbornly to positions we KNOW are wrong. We don’t have to play the game that “everything is all right”, when our relationship are broken, when our lives don’t seem to be filled, when we are waiting – even fearful that everything is about to come crashing down.

Come and learn of the Lord, the One who doesn’t make you wait long to be cleansed, healed, and made whole.

Take it from someone who gets to help in that process, even as I am being healed myself.

We cry “Lord, Have mercy!  Lord make us clean!”  and we look at the cross, and as our sins is cut away and discarded…we realize that He has!!!

What do you pray…about?

Devotional/discussion thought of the day:

“You wrote to me,”To pray is to talk with God.  But about what?”  About Him, about yourself. joys and sorrows, success and failures, great ambitions, daily worries – even your weaknesses!  And acts of thanksgiving and petitions, and love and reparation.
In short, get to know Him, and get to know yourself – ‘to get acquainted”  Escriva

Sometime I think we project prayer as some kind of duty, an obligation, a spiritual check in with Dad as we approach curfew.   We pray because we are told to, we pray because we are expected to, because we are good people.

If our prayer is only that, then we miss a lot, as we don’t comprehend the heart of the God who reveals Himself as our Father.  Who longs to share His life with us, who longs to be with us,  Prayer is a conversation with no bounds, and requires no special dignity or formal language. The Lord’s prayer is a basic outline – consider all the things covered by it!  Yet as well, there are times where we need solitude and peace, those times too are times of prayer, as are times where we complain and rant  and throw a tantrum like Jeremiah, or plead as Paul does for things to get better.

Recently, Andy Griffith died, and most of us recall first the closing to his television show, and he and a very young Ron Howard walk down a dirt road, on the way to go fishing.  Such is the nature of the relationship we have with God….as we walk through life together….   know He is there… share the day with Him, rejoice as He pours out His love and mercy and grace… and talk.. and listen,

That is prayer…. try it… often!

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