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The Value of Quietness…and how it leads to a joyful dance!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
Genesis 6:9 (NLT2)

All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of timeis being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mysteryof time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same inthe area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do;where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoidfacing the true mystery of inner growth toward God[1]

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.

John O’Donohue

Our primary goal, then, is not just to hear the voice of God but to be mature people in a loving relationship with God. This will result in our living a certain kind of life—one ofloving fellowship with God and those who love him. Only with this in mind willwe hear God rightly.[2]

As a child, my favorite times were when I was alone. Alone to read, along to wander the woods behind our home, alone especially in a church, an hour or two before mass.

Something happened as I was growing up, somehow, I turned into an extrovert, which is kind of awkward, because socially, I am pretty awkward. I can’t find contentment, or satisfaction, or peace easily when I am alone anymore.  Which is pretty good considering my vocation as a pastor, but not okay really, because spiritually, there is a huge need to be alone.

Well, not really alone, for in Christ, we never area.

The quote from O’Donohue above (from the Northumbrian community daily devotions at https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/) struck me first this morning.  How often our desperate hunger to be loved forces us into awkward and even harmful situations,  How often are we blind to the purest and greatest love, that is right at the edge of our soul?  And yet to recognize it, we have to set aside our restlessness, we have to realize that being still, being quiet, being able to rest is not a waste of time.

For as Pope Benedict notes, there is a mystery that occurs as we are still, we grow and become, we find our reality, we relate to God.

Willard reinforces this as well, as he notes we aren’t just made to listen toGod, to hear His voice, to praise Him in unison with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  We are madeto grow up into this loving relationship with God, to be in this amazing lifewhere we dance with God, where we share His joys, where He helps us with peacein the midst of sorrow.

Which means we have to find the quiet times, not to be disciplined, but to restin His presence, to remember He is our God, that He cares for us. To walk inclose fellowship with God as Noah did, and yet find the strength to know Him,to be at peace in His glory, in His presence.

So set the time aside, learn to love the moments of peace that finally set in…learn to leave all the distractions behind.

Meditate on the fact that He love you, until that meditation becomes aconversation, and then a dance.

Lord, may all those who read this, findthe time, and the patience, to realize they dwell in Your presence, and you intheirs… AMEN!


[1] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 386–387). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Are You Ready for God to Invade Your life?

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day:

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept thinking about the whole matter.   Gen 37:11 TEV

True evangelization presupposes a desire in the Church to come out of itself and go to the peripheries, not only geographically but also to areas where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, ignorance, and indifference to religion has its permanent dwelling.
We have no right to keep caressing our soul, to stay locked up in our own little, tiny bubble.

we see persons who regard personal communion and communication with God as life-changing episodes and as daily bread. Untold thousands of humble Christians who will never preach a sermon or have their name appear in print can testify to the same kinds of encounters with God as are manifested by the great ones in the Way.
Reflect: How do you respond to God invading human personality as a daily occurrence? How might you want God to invade your personality in greater ways?

As I was reading Genesis this morning, the sentence above struck me.  It reminded me of the times Luke records Mary pondering these things in her heart, and of the Psalms urging us to meditate on God’s word, to consider what He has done for His people.

So Israel considered all that God was showing Joseph, and he tried to think it through, tried to understand these encounters with God, for he recognized that was what his beloved was enduring.

The quote from Dallas Willard in green notes the same kind of encounter. Some radical, something life-changing, something where God invades not just our lives but invades our personality.  Where communion runs deeper than our minds can express, where our hearts and souls are overwhelmed by His mercy and love.  It is what we so desperately need, this invasion of God.

When God invades, there is nothing that He doesn’t affect, there is nothing left untouched. Oh how we need to learn to desire this more, how we need to grow comfortable with His presence!

This is what truly empowers evangelism, It brings us to the place where we are drawn to the brokenness, where sin and all its accompanying problems overwhelm people, we need to be there, as God invades the brokenness.

For while we need to meditate on His love, on His presence, this meditation gives us the ability to be there when the darkness seems to dominate, to be there when the presence of God is needed.

I think, even for those of us who ponder his love, who sit in awe and wonder at the things God is doing, if there isn’t a temptation to stay there, and not join God’s invasion.  The gates of Hell cannot withstand His invasion, His actions to rescue people from their brokennes, from their sin.

So spend time, thinking about how He has sustained His people in the past… and then… be ready, to dwell with Him now means we go places to invade the brokenness with Him.

Lord, help us to be so comforted by You, so confident in your cleansing, so aware of Your presence that You reveal to us, that we become those who reveal Your glorious healing light to those trapped in darkness… AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

 

Meditation – the rest that isn’t an escape…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15  and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (TEV)

We are witnessing today a kind of meditation in which religion becomes a drug. Its object is to find, not an answer to truth, but a liberation from the burden and misery of each individual existence.

Though Pope Benedict’s quote is nearly 20 years in the past, I see it coming true today as well.  There is a definite tendency in Spiritual Development to create a modern monasticism.  There is a tendency to want to turn out the world, not to contemplate the mysteries of God as much to escape the rat-race.

We want to be freed from the brokenness of the world, we want to be saved from the misery and anxiety of today.  We want respite, a rest that would refresh us.

We don’t want to leave our mountaintop experiences and return to our broken lives. I’ve seen this on too many retreats, and those who would easily volunteer to work on such retreats, experiencing the refreshing nature by observing others going through a process exploring what it means to depend on God.

But we need to meditate, we need to contemplate the mysteries of God.  Meditation is not to escape life, but to embrace life in Christ, To explore the how wide, how long, how deep, how high the love of God is, by experiencing it in the midst of life.  To treasure the guidance of God in His law, because we depend on His wisdom and mercy, to be amazed at the promises He has made us, and delivers in the sacraments.

That is why Paul urges Timothy to study the scriptures, to treasure them continually, for they give us the wisdom that comes from knowing we are saved, for we dwell in Jesus.

Meditation is not an escape from the world, it is the rest we need in the midst of the world, the chance to remember that the Lord is with us, the chance to take a rest and concentrate on His love, on His presence.  To remember the cross, to remember our baptism and what it means, to remember the Body broken and the Blood shed for us.  To see His place in our lives, revealed in the pages of the scriptures.

This is what we need, this gives us peace in the storm, a peace that can be far more powerful than the peace we find escaping the storm.

So take a moment, breathe deep, and remember you dwell in Him, and in His peace.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 328). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Do we understand, “for Christ’s sake!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our days:
17  How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

304    Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.

48 By the blessing of God, the priests in our churches pay attention to the ministry of the Word, they teach the Gospel of the blessing of Christ, and they show that the forgiveness of sins comes freely for Christ’s sake. This teaching really consoles consciences.

.When I come across the phrase, for Christ’s sake,  it makes me wonder how we hear it

The phrase is heard in our liturgies, and is used in so many theology texts.  “we are forgiven for Christ’s sake,”.

Certainly, without Jesus’ intervention, we wouldn’t be able to be forgiven. And I can’t see the Father wasting the Son’s life, He honors the sacrifice, and Christ’s merit is applied to our lives, as sin is separated from the sinner, and we are found to be righteous without it.

Yet, when I hear we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, there is a part of me that hears it negatively, as if there is no worth God finds in us.  As if the cross and all the suffering was simply God resigning Himself to save us, to deal with His frustration.  As if His attitude was, “you screwed up again, I suppose I have to save you, okay. I’ll do it, but only because of Jesus.”

That interpretation doesn’t coincide with how God is revealed in the Old Testament or the New.  Saving us is not something He reluctantly does, even as He is frustrated beyond frustration.

This is why we need to spend some time in solitude each day, why we need to be concerned about what St. Josemaria calls our interior life.  The place where we know God is with us, where we can hear HIs voice and know we are safe. We need to know He’s found us,  and we can relax, and listen

We need to hear God’s voice, we need to grow to where we can join the place the psalmist is at when he speaks of God’s thoughts about him. ,

About you.

About me.

To understand that God thinks about us leads us to realize how much He does care about us and sent Jesus to save us.  To think that is not just a passing thought, but that God has thought about us since He created us.  His thoughts are beyond our ability to count, yeah that makes sense.  Clarifying that you were on God’s mind more times that you can count is, well I just have words for that concept.

He loves us that much…

Wow…

Yes, it is because of Christ’s coming that we can know this, that we can be counted holy, yet that just isn’t our goal, it is the Father’s desire.

What an amazing thought.

What an amazing God!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 789-791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print

When the waters aren’t still…

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3 (NKJV)

12    Let obstacles only make you bigger. The grace of our Lord will not be lacking: Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae!—“Through the very midst of the mountains the waters shall pass.” You will pass through mountains! What does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment, if later, like a spring which has been compressed, you’ll advance much farther than you ever dreamed?

There are times I read Psalm 23 and I wonder where the still, restful waters are, the places where peace, where it seems that the green peaceful pastures are not easily found.  For it seems my soul isn’t “restored”, instead, I find my life to be one that is weary, harried, and in great need.

So what happened?

Are those words only for King David and/or really devout believers?

Are they for most Christians, and not for me?

Are they just words on a piece of paper, and not the word of God?

There is a question that I haven’t asked, but I need to ask.  

Is it possible that He is here, that He is leading me where He would, guiding me, protecting me, delivering me from the evil I fear? 

I’ve been through times where I don’t know God is there too many times in life.  Where the stress is too distracting, where the concerns seem too overwhelming, to serious, and I cannot see the Spirit at work, I don’t feel the comfort that is promised.  I just see the shadows, I just know the evil that is lurking there. 

I want to break through the stress, I want to learn to fight it, to be strong in my faith and face the storm head on…

And then, in such a time, I need to realize the point that St Josemaria makes, the grace of our Lord will not be lacking.  

I don’t have ot wield the rod and staff, instead, I can realize that my Shepherd does.  That God’s grace will provide, and that provision includes the comfort. For there are the meadows and streams, but the valleys exist as well.  

He is there.. He is here.

My Shepherd. 

He is here.

That’s what I need to gain by working through the 23rd Psalm.  Though my mind wants to struggle with what I can’t see, I need to grow in my ability to know what is promised is the reality.  And as I do, my faith, put under pressure, is finally released, the energy released being spent in praise and adoration of the Lord, my shepherd, my protector, my God. 

Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to see that which is revealed to us in Your word. AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 191-195). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can We Neglect Prayer and Meditation? Are they “optional?”

20170124_103703Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (TEV)

49  Zain Keep in mind your promise to your servant on which I have built my hope. 50  It is my comfort in distress, that your promise gives me life.   Psalm 119:49-50 (NJB)

579      There was a young priest who used to address Jesus with the words of the Apostles: Edissere nobis parabolam, explain the parable to us. He would add: Master, put into our souls the clarity of your teaching, so that it may never be absent from our lives and our works. And so that we can give it to others. You too should say this to Our Lord.

Maybe a year ago, a missionary friend of mine and I were talking about the balance of ministry.  He had recently gone through a rough patch, and he realized that he had been so busy that he neglected what he was saved to be.  He as neglecting his time with God.

It is far too easy, in this day when time demands all we have, and far more.  Especially for those in ministry, whether in a congregation, on the mission field, or in preparing those who will minister in the classrooms of our colleges and seminaries. It is tempting to reduce our time with God to the study of His word for teaching others.  After all, it is similar, it is similar motions, it is dealing with the same material.

Yet Jesus did the same things – and still went away to pray to the Father.  He didn’t just count the sermon on the mount and preparing for it as His time with the Father.   And he praised Mary for sitting at his feet, rather than serving those in her vocation as hostess.

There is a time for both.  There is a need for both, but especially for our regular, deeply intimate time with God.  A time where we ask Him to show us how to pray, a time where we ask Him to explain to us His teachings, where the Holy Spirit takes us to school in prayer, so that He permeates our very lives, and from that life, we can give it to others.

We need this time with Him.  It is what underlies the basis of a sacramental approach to God.  Otherwise, we could just replace the church with a classroom, we could make do even with the latest book or podcast, getting knowledge from others. I believe some churches have done this, diminishing prayer and worship, times of meditation and absolution for a longer exegetical sermon that may or may not mention Jesus, and may or may not bring comfort to broken hearts.

The gathering, the church service, the mass is a time of prayer, it is a time waiting on Jesus, listening to Him, seeing His love revealed and given to us, not just taught to us.  Our times of prayer, of spending time contemplating and meditating on His word is similar. This is why the early Lutheran priests talked about prayer as a sacrament, it is why the ancient church fathers talked about how we pray is how we believe, and why the dedication of Solomon’s temple talked all about “when people pray”.

Spend time with God, talk, listen, ask for insight, ask to understand, that what you experience may be an integral part of your life, a delight, and that it may flow from you to others.

I pray that you see revealed and experience the peace of God which passes all understanding, and that found in the presence of Christ, you know He will keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2156-2159). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where are you? Where is your focus?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:7-9 (TEV)

How does your heart stand with regard to God Himself? Does it delight in the remembrance of God? Does this remembrance leave an agreeable sweetness behind it? “Ah!” said David, “I remembered God and was delighted.” Do you find a certain propensity in your heart to love God and a particular satisfaction in relishing that love? Does your heart feel joy in reflecting on the immensity, goodness, or sweetness of God? If the remembrance of God comes to you amidst the occupations and vanities of the world, does it make room for itself? Does it seize upon your heart? Does it seem to you that your heart turns in that direction, and, is it were, runs to meet God? Certainly, there are such souls to be found.

We all have our breaking point.  It may not be caused by the same stresses, the same anxieties, the same temptations, but each of us has a point where we lose focus.

Without regular self-examination, it is all too common for such a breaking point to catch us off guard.  Without a regular time of giving to God our sin and the unrighteousness we deal with, we are setting ourselves up as easy targets.

One of the things to consider is what is our heart resonating with?  Is it the kind of things Paul urges us to think of in Phil 4:8 above?  Are we rejoicing when we consider our time with God?

Or is our heart being torn apart by cynicism, by gossip and complaining?  Does our time feed such bitter things captivate us?  Are we devoting that time to that which is depraved or immoral?  ( we might not even realize it is so…)

The good stuff in Philippians, and in the quote from St Francis De Sales isn’t self-generated.  It isn’t something we can just make up our mind and focus upon. It comes from being sure we dwell in God’s peace.  It is about relaxing in the presence of God, sure that He is our fortress, our strength, our life. It is our focus because that is what is, when we are aware of His presence. It is a more “natural” way of existence.  That is why Paul surrounds this second about our minds being filled with good things with the thought of God giving and preserving our peace.

The key then is the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the Lord of Life who calms our hearts and sets them at peace.  The Spirit who cleanses us from the brokenness of the world, and heals our souls.

As we open ourselves up to the Spirit, as we search for Him and find He is here, we desire Him more, we desire His presence more, and we see the difference it makes as being a difference the world needs, that our neighbors and family and friends need. For we need it, and are amazed the need is so completely met by the Holy Spirit.

This is the Christian faith, the dependence on God’s presence that makes everything beautiful, everything precious, everything good.

May we desire His precence more and more.  AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

The Maintenance Man: A Modern Parable


Devotional Thought of the Day:

Very rarely will I post another person’s work on my blog, but this parable reflects a real life event in their life.  And perhaps, as good parables do….. our lives as well. As you read it, consider who you might be, and as needed, approach God’s throne of grace…and maybe bring a friend, a pastor, a professor, a maintenance man, and find the stone who the builders rejected.  To the one who wrote this, thank you my friend, for helping us see.

The Maintenance Man

Well, the stones were all square. That’s what they had in common. And they all

(or at least some of them) got walked on. And yes, they were different sizes, to form a

pattern, but each one had its place, fitting neatly into the matrix of the walkway. Anne

liked how they all fit together, and so she felt a little guilty when she accidentally kicked

one loose. Locomotion required some serious willpower these days, and she hauled

her hesitant feet behind her into the building. Muttering, a maintenance man shook his

head in annoyance at all the cementing he’d have to do to replace that chipped stone.

Unaware of his displeasure, the young lady continued toward the building. She

wasn’t convinced this whole thing was a good idea, but in the face of her obvious

incompetence, she would obey the wishes of friends and administrators. They had

noticed the permanently blank look on her face, her listlessness, and her habit of

assuming failure, and they had particularly urged her to do this. Her response had been

one of apathy and resignation. “I suppose I’ll go, but I don’t know what good it’ll do.”

Mentally she had added, “or why they bother now.”

She knew right where the Pastor’s office was, and she followed the familiar path

there. As Anne walked in, the church secretary forced the corners of her mouth up just

a little bit. With as much work as the Pastor had given her, it was the best she could do.

Anne smiled back to encourage the older woman.

“The Pastor is with someone right now. Do you have an appointment?” His

calendar lay open on her desk.

“No.”

The secretary hated this part of her job. So many people were turned away. “He

is very busy today. Would you like to make an appointment for another day? I think we

could probably fit you in sometime next week, even though things are pretty hectic

around here.”

“No, thank you. I think I’ll just wait, if you don’t mind.”

“He probably won’t have time for you.”

“I shouldn’t be long.”

“OK. Whatever you’d like to do.” The secretary turned back to her typing. Better

not to think about it.

Presently, the study door opened and the pastor emerged from his office with the

new organist. They were chuckling to themselves, and joking about the old, worn organ

the church had.

“Thanks, Pastor. We’ll have a go at these. If the choir can learn them well, I

think they can lead the congregation on Sunday.”

“I’d appreciate that. Oh, and also, the elders think the services are too long, so

let’s try to pick up the tempo a bit on Sunday.”

“We’re already moving at a good clip, but if there’s no other way …”

“Thanks! Have a good day!”

“You too. Bye.”

Anne shook her head to clear the cobwebs.

“Excuse me, Pastor?”

“I’m really pressed for time right now. What do you need?”

Anne followed him into the study. The pastor gave a mental groan as she closed

the study door behind her. Anne noticed. Some things never change.

“What can I do for you?” His office seemed smaller. Perhaps it was the mounds

of paper that had accumulated on his desk and on the floor next to his desk.

“Well, I’ve been having some trouble concentrating – my grades are getting lower

and lower – my advisor told me to come and see you before I flunk out.”

“Why? Did the Professor seem to think there was something I could help you

with?” His brain silently translated, “Couldn’t it have waited till after Easter?”

Anne didn’t really believe he could help her at all, unless he happened to be

carrying something sharp. She was always in somebody’s way. But she answered him

politely. “He thought you might be able to get a handle on why my act isn’t together. I

wasn’t so sure, but I promised him I’d come see you.”

“Anne, we’ve talked about this before, and I’m afraid I just don’t have anything

else to say. Until you do something about your attitudes, things are never going to

change. It’s that simple. You come to church in jeans, you never smile, and all you

seem to care about is home – whether your mom called, your dad’s new girlfriend, or

how much he’s been drinking. You’d think you were the only person jin the world who’s

lived through their parents’ divorce. Take some advice, OK? Go back to the dorm,

have some dinner, and crack the books. Let your brothers and sisters worry about your

parents. The best thing you can do for your grades is buckle down and study.”

Anne didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but somehow she didn’t think that would

matter to him. “Well, I won’t take up any more of your time. Please tell the professor I

came to see you.”

“OK. I’ve really got to go now. See you Sunday!” Pastor hurried out of the

office. He had to get to the flower shop before it closed to pick up those extra palms. If

they ran out tomorrow, the elders would be upset with him. Yes, he had things to do.

Anne showed herself out. Walking slowly, she was deep in debate with herself.

Right, toward the river, or left, toward town? She decided on left, and forced her body in

that direction.

The maintenance man saw her, and hurried to finish the hedges he had begun

when she arrived. Exhausted, he decided to leave the walkway til Monday and head

home. He had a blister on his hand, but at least the hedges would look nice for Palm

Sunday. He kicked the errant walkway stone back into its hole, stomped it down good,

and packed up his things. Anyway, the sky was clouding up.

Somewhere in the back of Anne’s mind it registered. Through the cloudiness,

thunder. Although it tried, the realization didn’t manage to worm its way forward until

her cheek felt the first trickles of the downpour. Weary from the struggle to make her

feet obey, she sought shelter in a nearby drug store.

Greeting cards, prescription drugs, vitamins, magazines – the signs intruded on

her foggy consciousness. Stopping in front of the non-prescription drugs, she tried to

look like she was shopping. The clerk eyed her suspiciously.

Then, as if a breeze blew through her mind, the fog cleared, and she understood.

Smiling, she selected the generic sleeping aids.

The clerk wanted her out of his store. “That’ll be three dollars and forty-six

cents.” She was barely to the counter. Handing him three-fifty, she left without her

change.

Leaning up against a nearby post, Anne was suddenly calm. At least she

wouldn’t be in anybody’s way anymore. Finally spotting a water fountain, she

swallowed the contents of the bottle she had just purchased, sat down on a nearby

bench, and dozed off with the rain dripping off her fingers.

The Professor seemed angry when the pastor spotted him walking into church

the next morning.

“I know she isn’t here yet, but Anne asked me to tell you that she came into see

me yesterday.”

“Yes.” His voice lowered, and took an edge to it. “Well, she won’t be coming any

more. They found her on a bench about two blocks from here.” The Professor paused

to let his words take effect. “Her parents are flying in tomorrow from Ohio. Apparently

she decided to get rid of her insomnia for good.”

The verdict had been handed down.

“She never mentioned any insomnia.”

“You never asked.”

The gavel hit the bench.

The pastor looked disgusted. The Professor left. He didn’t think he’d be back.

Slowly walking out the front door, he stopped half0way down the crumbling path. There

was mud all over, and, dep in thought, he traced something in it with his toe. Then he

shook the wet earth off his feet.

The sentence had been pronounced.

After all, it really is difficult to get good help these days. He called to the

maintenance man, just arriving for church.

“You shouldn’t have left that loose stone, you know. Now all the soil’s washed

out from underneath and the whole thing will need replacing.”

The maintenance man scowled and didn’t answer. He walked in, muttering

greetings to the Pastor as he passed, who scowled and muttered back. Now the pastor

had yet another sermon to prepare this week, and he didn’t have time to deal with

maintenance men.

Closing thought,  from the words of another battered and chipped stone, named Paul. ” 19  You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. 20  You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. 21  Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. 22  And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God’s own Spirit to live.”Ephesians 2:19-22 (CEV) 

Lord, You Want Me To Preach on What?

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

7 You seduced me,* LORD, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me, and you prevailed. All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage I proclaim; The word of the LORD has brought me reproach and derision all day long. 9 I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot! Jeremiah 20:7-9  NAB-RE

If vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life—and we are nearly always to blame—that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendor of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk—our miseries—forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above.

In the passage I am preaching on this week, there is what is called a gospel imperative.  In other words, a command of God that only can be realized and heard within the fullness of the gospel.  It has to be heard in a life of prayer, a life which realizes we stand on Holy ground.  

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good”  Galatians 6:9

The first quote, from scripture above, is one of my ten favorite passages in scripture.  It probably could be described as my life verse, at least it is one I experience a lot.  For working in God’s kingdom is as wearing as building stone walls, or managing a university bookstore in the first weeks of class. It is worse, physically tiring, mentally exhausting and spiritually draining.

If a pastor neglects God, if he is too busy for time in prayer, if he is too busy for devotional time (as well as the business of studying scripture to preach and teach it) he will reach Jeremiah’s position quickly.  We can reach the point that St Josemaria describes, where the dust we stir up in our journey distorts and even eclipses our view of Christ, our understanding of His love for us.

Of course, this isn’t just about pastors, for we are not the only ones who do good.  It is true for every believer, for every perosn who trusts and depends on Christ.  For that is what the faith is, need to cling to Christ (Jeremiah describes it as our being as clingy as underwear!) because He is our source of life, and of serenity and joy.

The answer to burnout, the answer to not seeing Christ is to know Him, to know the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within us.  TO depend on that rather than what we see and observe.  It is what saints and mystics call the interior life,  This is why St John of the Cross advises staying where we are at, making no dramatic change.  We are to keep praying, to keep receiving the sacraments even when the storms of life blind us, when Satan assails us.  We need to be patient and seek God, remembering that He is our refuge, our fortress, our sanctuary.

It is from this place that we can find His strength, where we find the dynamo that is the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. For dwelling in Christ we can keep on doing good, we can keep on loving the unlovable, we can be patient with those struggling, and guide them into the very presence of God.

For we know where He is… we know where Holy Ground is.  We know where He has put His Name… fo we have met Him at the cross and been united to Him there.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1146-1151). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Spiritual Growth Necessary? The Benefit of Prayer, Meditation and Frequent Reception of the Sacraments

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
1  As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:1-2 (TEV)

9  For this reason we have always prayed for you, ever since we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. 10  Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience. And with joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for his people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-11 (TEV)

90         Optimism? Yes, always! Even when things seem to turn out badly: perhaps that is the time to break into a song, with a Gloria, because you have sought refuge in Him, and nothing but good can come to you from Him.

24 For the Old Adam, like an unmanageable and recalcitrant donkey, is still a part of them and must be coerced into the obedience of Christ, not only with the instruction, admonition, urging, and threatening of the law, but frequently also with the club of punishments and miseries, until the flesh of sin is put off entirely and man is completely renewed in the resurrection.

I started to write this blog yesterday, and then life seemed to get in the way.  Life can be like that.

My devotional reading this morning again hammered it home, as Paul’s prayer for those who followed Christ in a city named Colossae makes clear.  A life following Christ will be different than the life that doesn’t. It is challenging to hear those words of Paul, who desires we be able to live as God desires and that our actions please Him.

The challenge is seen in the quote in green, that our old nature, which we believe was killed off in baptism, continues to rise, challenge us and dominate our lives. And the Lutheran Confessions (you know – from the “saved by grace, through faith, no works folks – talk about the law still impacting and disciplining the believer.  Of the sin-nature is put off entirely and the   Paul mentions needing to discipline the body as well, and Hebrews talks of shedding the sin and everything that so easily ensnares us.

But what are those things that help us grow?  What are the things in our lives that encourage the growth that transforms us more and more into those who resemble Jesus?

We see it in all the passages, perhaps most clearly in St. Josemaria’s words in blue.  To, in the middle of the darkness of this world, break into praising and glorifying God, in Whose presence you dwell!   We need to take refuge in Him, to seek the peace that comes from being brought back to the Father, cleansed and healed and transformed, conformed to the image of Jesus. (Think that Phil. 2:5-10 is in context with the first verses, the ones that talk about being of one mind, one heart.

It is that transformation that is spiritual growth, and so things that help us grow to know we are in God’s presence, God’s loving, transforming presence, are what cause us to grow in and like Christ.  In Hebrews. This is described as fixing ou eyes on Jesus, who creates faith in us, and sustains it to completion.  In Colossians, we talk about the knowledge of God.  Not knowing about God as we know about Adam and Eve, or BioChemistry.  But knowing Him, the knowledge of His presence, His mercy, His love.

So how do we grow in this?  How does Spiritual Growth happen?

So obviously prayer fits in there, not just a casual Lord’s prayer, but a deep conversation, including listening.
Which brings us to meditating on God’s word, whether we scan a book, or meditate on one verse.  Both have their time and place.  And sharing scripture with each other, studying not in a vacuum, meditating on it with others, that we can encourage each other, teach, and pick up those who have stumbled off the past, or lost sight of Jesus.  Even those who shepherd the people of God need not just to study scripture, but also pray through it, listen and meditate on it.

The sacraments also stimulate this growth, for they not only make us aware of God’s presence but remind us of what happens in His presence. That’s why Luther often talked of remembering our baptism, not just as a passing thought, but considering what God did there.   How we were joined to Jesus Christ, to His death and resurrection.  How our sins were nailed to the cross, and we were cleansed of them.  How the promises of eternal life was guaranteed, and the Holy Spirit began o reside in us.

Communion, the Eucharist does the same thing, as we take and eat, take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. As He invites us to His feast and again reminds us of how He gives himself for us.  How welcome we are at the feast celebrating His work, His work not just saving us, but re-creating us, of His makin us the Father’s children.

I could go on and on, talking about the blessings of Confession, and hearing our sins are forgiven, of worship and praise, singing and celebrating, I could speak of the blessing of seeing a friend brought to God and made aware of HIs love, or of doing the same for an enemy.

This is the spiritual life, and it is found and grows in His presence…. learning to trust God, and entrust everything to Him.

There is His peace… and may you grow more and more aware of it, in your life, and may it spread from you into your community.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 594-596). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 568). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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