Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 Jesus answered, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again.” 20 “Are you going to build it again in three days?” they asked him. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple!” 21 But the temple Jesus was speaking about was his body. 22 So when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and what Jesus had said. John 2:19-22 (TEV)
The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years. 2 She died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her. Gen 23:1–2
179 Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.
They aren’t the devotional readings you want to come up the day someone takes a long needle, places it in your carotid veins, and checks out your heart from the inside. There these readings the readings in red were, The procedure they told me, had less than 1% serious complications, but if you know me, that’s not good odds. I would prefer them in the region of .0000001% chance.
But here I was, waiting impatiently for the procedure to began. I had signed the paperwork saying who had the power to make decisions for me if I didn’t come out of the sedation, papers authorizing blood transfusions, and, of course, the paperwork saying I understood that such medical procedures are risky and that I wouldn’t sue if I died. (How could I? But that isn’t where your mind goes…)
For the first time in 10 major surgeries in my life, I was afraid going into the surgical suite/cath lab, I didn’t like that feeling at all. I have sat by many during such times, I have been there myself before, but the fear this time… I started to plan my own funeral- but who would I tell?
I was sure I was facing death, and yet… I survived.
So now what?
I’ve had people tell me before that such events change people. But then again, a motorcycle accident, a cardiac arrest, a surgery to replace two heart valves, all that didn’t change me that much, except to prepare me for ministry. Okay, to prepare me for a very unique and different ministry.
But what would come out of this very dark, very anxiety-laden time? Why didn’t God come and quiet my soul, like He had some many times? Why couldn’t I, a guy who teaches people how to minister to others in such times, find the peace I had led so many others too?
It’s funny, in that emptiness, in that moment where they “sealed” my body to the surgery table with some super form of saran wrap, ( My anxiety helped me wonder if they were pre-fitting me for a body-bag!) in that lack of peace, in those moments in that lack of anything, I was sure it didn’t matter. If I went home to God, the sins that concerned me would be covered. If I stayed, there was a final to take, sermons to grade, blogs to write. But those things didn’t exist at that moment when they put a drape over my head so the surgeon could do his job….
there was nothing…
and because there was nothing… there was the proof of God.
Again, I couldn’t point to any feeling, matter of fact they led me down other roads. My knowledge as a pastor failed me.
But that doesn’t mean God did. If God is God, then in those moments I sense nothing, in those moments where I can’t depend on logic, or emotion, He has to be there, beyond me. If we die, we are with Him, if we don’t, He will draw us closer to Him, strengthening us so we can bring others along on the journey.
I have often wondered why Jesus, who was, is, and will be God had to face His own… well, mortality, so often. Why God would go there so often, almost as if he was fixated on it.
Because it wasn’t just His death He faced. It was all our death. The death of sin.
He did that, so we could face the emptiness of death.. the barrenness of the moment of facing it.
So that in our baptism, our leaving this life will become meaningless.
For no matter what, whether our mind can process it or not, whether our emotions can cope with it… ultimately we are in His hands.
Nothing else matters…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 957-963). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” 16 God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children….. 26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:15-16, 26 (TEV)
“The Cry to God as Father in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgment of a universal truth about God’s abstract fatherhood. It is the child’s cry out of a nightmare. It is the cry of outrage, fear, the shrinking away when faced with the horror of the world. Yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well.” ( From Celtic Daily Prayer, meditations Day 3)
He responded generously to Christ’s invitation to “take up his cross each day.” Escrivá’s aspiration, “In laetitia, nulla dies sine cruce” (In joy, no day without the cross) was a reality in his life.
In the last couple of days, i have had people marvel at the medical story of my life. For readers that don’t know, I grew up knowing I live with a genetic time bomb. Most died from it back then, without knowing they had it. Marphans turned you into a timebomb. All of a sudden one day, their aorta disconnects from their heart, ti either tears or blows off, and they are dead. Because they knew of it, and when the surgeries developed, I have had defibrillators put in , and replaced. I’ve had two artificial valves put in, and my aorta has a sheath around it.
So I tick. Which on Sunday led to people listening to the tick and saying “Crazy” (over and over – each one entering a room was made to listen to me – and that was each person’s response)
Last night, at a banquet for a crisis pregnancy center, several of the women wanted to touch my hand, because they considered me a walking miracle.
I’ve considered y situation over the years, more akin to a walking nightmare. I’ve had many a night where I couldn’t sleep, and others where I ranted at God like a wolf baying at the boon. I’ve dealt with every emotion common to man. There was a break for a few years, then my son was born, to whom I passed on this struggle. The pains and heart came back again, worse than ever, as I see my son examined every year.
If there is any depth to my prayer life, if there is any strength I have in facing these trials, it is because of the effect of prayer. Not the recitation of prayers that were written for sharing on Sunday morning together. Not the pious prayers of daily devotions. But the prayers that arise out of my brokenness, out of my despair, out of my frustration with God, and with the complications of life.
No, the depth of prayer comes from those cries, begging for God to help us in this life of nightmares. It may start like jeremiah, with a cry of anger, of protest, of WHY GOD!!! But that cry in all of its honesty, in all of its broken and barrenness is where we find the truth of Romans above. That God is at work, that the Holy SPirit is comforting us, and conforming or translating our prayers, even with groanings that go beyond our ability to bring to our mind, to release from our hearts.
It is in those times when peace goes beyond our expectation. When love fills our soul, when we know God is with us, caring for us.
I hate those dark days of the past, and I know some are coming in the future. My body is broken, patched together and bionic, my soul suffers with it at times. But I wouldn’t trade the one’s in the past for anything, for the result is, as described in the third quote – joy, and peace. I will try to embrace the one’s in the future – with that hope, with that expectation.
For we know the heart of God, and He will sustain us.
Lord, have mercy!
Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 2110-2112). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.