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Please Come Back Soon, Lord! Huh? You Are Here!!!!

Jesus foot washing7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God.  Genesis 45:7-8 GNT

Trial and temptation are the initial means of spiritual formation. Through them the Christian is stripped time and time again of presumption and the delusions of righteousness. One is thrust into a kind of existential free fall with nothing to break the descent into darkness, nothing to hold onto but Jesus the Christ.

309         Far away on the horizon heaven seems to meet the earth. Do not forget that where heaven and earth really meet is in your heart of a child of God.

Yesterday, I posted on FaceBook the following thought

“Struggling with the idea that Maranatha shouldn’t be just a prayer of despair, but one of expectation.”

Let me be honest, the last week or so, as I’ve have witnessed so much trauma, that I would be very grateful for the Second Coming of Christ.  And in a desperate way, I want to plead for it, for the release from the tribulation and tears that seem to be occurring wherever I turn.

And yet part of me regrets wanting the Second Coming for such a personal excuse, for such a homecoming, for such peace.  I know I should know this peace, and there are times where I know it, especially as I hand to my brothers and sisters the Body of Christ, as my elders and deacon encourage them to take and drink the Precious Blood poured out to activate the New Covenant, a relationship where we are free from sin.

As I look out on this broken world, this shattered community, as I see the sin ravaged relationships, my instinct to run and hide from the pain.

And gently confronting my angst this morning, I came across the readings above, and sit in wonder, as I realize God’s providence.

In the reading from Luther’s Spirituality, I see the blessing of such tribulation, as it strips from me everything but Christ.  Out of need I cry out to Him and find He’s already there.  He’s not on the distant horizon, not somewhere out there in time.  But He is here, He is wonderfully sustaining me! He is wonderfully here!

And then, like Joseph, I realize the pain’s purpose, the salvation of all of those around, the chance we all have because even in this midst of the trauma, I see God at work.  Oddly enough through some of the most broken, those in the deepest pain, those with no other option but Christ.

What an amazing paradox, what a wondrous mystery. What an unbelievable peace that is found now, in the presence of the Lord who will wipe away every tear one day, yet now cries with us, even as the Holy Spirit comforts us,

And as I think this through, I realize the peace, the incredible peace of being claimed and cleansed in baptism, of the feast where God celebrates our being united to Him. And though the trauma remains… so can we.

If you too are dealing with, or surrounded by those who are dealing with trauma, pain, whether from nature or because of sin, consider this prayer for you as well.

Lord, there are so many in need of Your peace, as they feel pressures crushing them, or feel for those who are being crushed, Lord reveal yourself to them, may they know the presence of the Holy Spirit, that in the midst of everything, builds within them the undeniable peace that is unable to be explained, but comes from knowing they are loved by you, Jesus, and the by the Father and Holy Spirit, as You reign and care for us, forever and ever, AMEN!

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxvii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1471-1472). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

He ended with that? (The odd ending of a book of scripture)

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:

19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back,  20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.  James 5:19-20 HCSB

The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.

The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.

The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.

Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.

What an incredible blessing!  To be involved in such a work!  What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken.  Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness.  It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.

I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord.  It rings so true.

For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal.  Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.

THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…

The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB

and which he tasked us to do as well…

21  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:21-23 (NLT2)

This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.

James’ last words are ones we need to hear!

Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Long lost lessons about dealing with feelings of futility,urgency and anxiety.

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”  *Ecc 12:8  HCSB

10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2)

6  So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. 1 Peter 5:6 (Phillips NT)

Rush, rush, rush! Hustle and bustle! Feverish activity! The mad urge to dash about. Amazing material structures … On the spiritual level … shams, illusions: flimsy backdrops, cheesecloth scenery, painted cardboard … Hustle and bustle! And a lot of people running hither and thither. It is because they work thinking only of “today”; their vision is limited to “the present.” But you must see things with the eyes of eternity, “keeping in the present” what has passed and what has yet to come. Calmness. Peace. Intense life within you. Without that wild hurry. Without that mad urge for change. From your own place in life, like a powerful generator of spiritual energy, you will give light and vigor to ever so many without losing your own vitality and your own light.

“slow down, you’re moving to fast, you’ve got to make the morning last!” came to my mind as I read the words in blue this morning.  Had to look the lyrics up -they come from a Simon & Garfunkel hit some 4-5 decades ago.

I remember a booklet in high school, that I read, and set aside because it wasn’t relevant to me, yet.  It was called Tyranny of the Urgent, and it to came to mind as I read these words of St. Josemaria.  As did lessons in my management program about the danger of managing from a reactive position, and the necessity of waiting patiently to see if things resolve.

As I spend more and more time in ministry, I think we have to learn these lessons over again.  Not passively or apathetically taking no action, but doing so with intent and deliberation, and a healthy dependence upon God. 

That’ is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes had to cope with, as he looked around him and realized the futility of life.  It is what the people in Isaiah’s time needed to learn, as they saw their world falling apart. It is what Peter (OF ALL PEOPLE!) advocates to those under pressure because of their faith.

Set all the things causing stress on God, knowing He will help – and keep us able to stand in the midst of a world trying to batter us, trying to break us.  He will heal us, His victory over sin and Satan and death becomes ours. 

The challenge is in realizing the eternal implications of our life in and with Christ.  My son’s teacher asked him this last year, “will this still be an issue in five years?” We should ask a similar question, “how does this affect our eternity?” and then work from that perspective. How does this situation lead people to God’s peace, or away from it? How will God view us, His children differently if we don’t immediately react?  

Take a breath… adjust, take a walk and spend the time looking for clues to God’s presence. 

God is with you….

Rest in that thought not just a second, try ten minutes, or sixty, or a day!

Repeat that, slowly, “The Lord is with me!”  

Be at peace, be still in and awe of the Lord’s work in your life…. and let go of the sense of urgency, the stress of anxiety, and the condemnation of futility.

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1928-1936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ministering to others will always include suffering, but here is the secret to surviving it.

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:15-16 (TEV)

1  Keep on loving one another as Christians.2  Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. 3  Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. Hebrews 13:1-3 (TEV)

25  And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (TEV)

Only from a personal encounter with the Lord can we carry out the diakonia (service) of tenderness without letting us get discouraged or be overwhelmed by the presence of pain and suffering.

Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.  William Goldman from the Princess Bride

Though life isn’t always pain, (it just seems like it some years!), There is enough of it to go around.

Since ministry is about meeting people where they are at and revealing to them the love and mercy and work of Christ in their lives, it must also be true that “ministry is pain, and anyone who is telling you different, is selling you something!”

As we look at the quotes from the Apostle Paul, there is a simple acknowledgment of this fact.  We share in the suffering, we share in the tears and the pain of those who are enduring hard times.

There is no avoiding that truth.  If your church, your Bible Study and the people in them aren’t experiencing anxiety, pain, concern, it is probable that they are, you just don’t see it.  It is possible that everything is awesome but more likely, people are afraid to open up to share what they are struggling with in life.

So, given that we will encounter people who suffer, who we will share the tears and the pain with, the question then becomes, how do we survive this, especially when there are many people struggling, many tears to share, many people to care for in our circles?  How do we share in the pain, without it having a long-term effect on us mentally, physically and spiritually?

On a tangent, modern psychology is now recognizing such stress on the life of caregivers (counselors, pastors, teachers) and first responders, as they develop information on “Second Hand Shock Syndrome” a form of PTSD that constant exposure to others’ stresses can cause.   Take it from me, I have learned to be aware of its effects, as they impact others around me when I am dealing with too much.

My answer may seem too simple, not scientific enough, and not always possible.

It is the answer that Pope Francis notes in the quote above.  It is the personal encounter with Christ that can alleviate the oppressive discouragement,  It is only encountering Jesus, regularly and intimately that enables us to continue to be tender and caring with those who are weeping, with those who are broken.

We find our hope and theirs, as Christ is healing our brokenness, as He is wiping away our tears, as the Holy Spirit comforts us with a peace that goes beyond all logic.  But that only comes in those moments where we realize His presence, where we just are still and know He is God, that He is our God.

Such as at the altar, when we receive His Body and Blood.  Such as in our daily time where we pray, and read, and simply adore the Lord who has given us life. SUch as the time when we hold each others hand, and silently pray as we weep, and then experience His peace.

Are we still going to weep?  Yes.

Are we still going to feel helpless and broken?  Yes, absolutely.

Are we going to endure, sure of the ministry that is God’s, that He shares with us, that will bring comfort and peace to those we serve?  Yes, absolutely.

God is with you, know that dwell on that, and the tears can flow, and the weeping can occur, and you will be amazed at what he does thru… and in you.

Godspeed, and God’s peace….

Heavenly Father, help us in our brokenness to rely on the Spirit’s comfort, and help us to see that comfort shared with those who are weeping… in Jesus name, we pray, AMEN!

 
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 244). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist

My Struggles with “Devotions”, “Spiritual Disciplines”, “Prayer”. Maybe its time to take a walk!

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day

11  I will live among you, and I will not despise you. 12  I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12 (NLT2)

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
2 What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Men are not the result of chance or of a struggle for existence that brings victory to the practical and the strong. No, man is the product of God’s creative love. God is. That means that he can act, and that he truly does act—now—in this world and in our lives.… Do we trust him? Do we regard him as a reality when we assess our lives, our day-to-day experiences?

Some time back I was telling you: come out of the caves! Today I repeat: come out of the sacristy, of the parish’s offices, of the VIP rooms! Get out! Engage in the pastoral of the atrium, of the doors, of the houses, of the street.
Don’t wait; get out!

“I want more the Sundays and Wednesday nights!  Because if you can’t come to me every day, then don’t bother coming at all!”

I remember those words of Keith Green playing from my radio, and from the old cassette tapes I had while I was in high school.  And I thought they were God’s words, backed up by scripture and the Holy Spirit, for they caused great conviction, great guilt and shame when I missed my devotions when I struggled with times of prayer.

I had to spend time in the word, I had to spend time in prayer, I must, or God would refuse to talk to me, after all, we know He is a jealous God!

Yet the despair, the guilt, and the shame… easily I could have thought, maybe I am just not one of those called to follow God.  I thought often that I am not holy enough, spiritual enough, good enough for God. How could he love one as weak, and as full of coubts as I am?

Even today, I tend to define my time with God as Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights with God’s people, and the hour or so of prayer and reading I do.  Corporate and Individual.  Times that I truly treasure. times that sustains me.  Times that I wish I could instill in my son how precious they are, that I could help him and my church family see how much a treasure they have waiting for them.

Have to admit, that is frustrating!  How can they not see how much they need this time?  How can they not see how it will benefit them? Why can’t they see how much they need to know what scripture will show them.  Others who writings told the story struggled and found strength in knowing what God would reveal to them are precious as well!  ALl these blessings, that simply get overlooked, and put on the shelf, or the Bible App relegated to the back page of our phones/Tablets, etc)

You can’t force people to spend time with God, you can’t manipulate it, you can’t threaten hell.  So how can I help people find the blessings that are so necessary in my life?  THat I depend upon, given the brokenness that I have to encounter.

As I read the readings above this morning, perhaps I have found something that I knew but didn’t appreciate recently.  The reason that all these things I set apart time to do helps is because it helps me realize that God is there 24/7/365.   That we are His people, that He loves to not just meet us in the “designated” place and the “appointed” times, but He wants to walk through life with us, pointing out the ways He provides and sustains us.

That is why I need my devotional times, my time in prayer, my time reading scripture and those who went before.  Because I need to know that God is with me in the rest of the day, in the walks we take, in the people we encounter (and He is with them as well) In every aspect of life.

He is there.

He created us to be His people.  And so He loves us, sustains us, provides for us, and wipes away our tears when needed.  It is encountering these truths in my “special times” that sustains me in the broken times…and in the good times, and in the routine times.  That is why I treasure them, and that is why my son, and my church family, need ot know.

God is with you…. when you need Him. Everywhere, walking with you. He is your God…your Creator, Sustainer, Comforter,  AMEN!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 344–345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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. 163). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 165). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Don’t Like the Heat? Stay IN the Kitchen!

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I will take action against you. I will purify you the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity. 26  I will give you rulers and advisers like those you had long ago. Then Jerusalem will be called the righteous, faithful city.” 27  Because the LORD is righteous, he will save Jerusalem and everyone there who repents. Isaiah 1:25-27 (TEV)

 The LORD says that his people reject him.7  Because of this the LORD Almighty says, “I will refine my people like metal and put them to the test. My people have done evil— what else can I do with them? Jeremiah 9:5-7 (TEV)

485    Well, so what? Unless your motive is hidden pride (you think you’re perfect), I don’t understand how you can give up that work for souls just because God’s fire which first attracted you, besides giving the light and warmth that aroused your enthusiasm, should also at times produce the smoke that results from the weakness of the instrument!

I don’t like confrontations, and even less do I like politics, of either the secular or church variety.  They raise too much heat, they cause too much stress, they cause a reaction that is to fight or to flee, neither of which is good, right or beneficial.

Yet, as a pastor who is a sinner as much as the flock, he guides towards Jesus, I have realized two things about both confrontations and the politics that lead to them.

1.  Heat caused by conflict is inevitable in the church.

2.  Despite my dislike for it, despite how uncomfortable it makes people, there is always a blessing for those who neither fight nor flee, but depend upon God to resolve the conflict and reconcile those who struggle with each other.

Conflict can dull our enthusiasm for the church, and for the apostolate, the mission God has sent us all on, to bring the message of reconciliation to the people He would call His own.  But the very idea that reconciliation is needed means there is heat somewhere, and that the mission will be uncomfortable.

One of the reasons it is uncomfortable is that part of what the heat will remove, our pride.  This is the refining, the heat applied in such a way it gets rid of the imputiries, Even the pride that is buried deep within us, hidden even from our own conscious view.

If we can remember that even the person we are in conflict with can and will be used by God if we remember even if they are 90 percent wrong, there is ten percent of their statement that is a message from God, sent to purify us.

And it will, and the more pride that is hidden within us, the more the heat will rise. ANd we have to let it, w have to be patient, for to throw cold water on it will cause more of an explosion.   We have to let it work itself out.  It will, For God will perfect us, in His time, and this heat is part of the process!

That’s uncomfortable, but it is okay.  You and I can survive the heat, we can stay in the kitchen.  For I am confident that God will use this for good. He will refine us in it, the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort, even as we are transformed, purified.  (and I still won’t like it!)

For what else can God do?  He loves us, He can’t leave us broken, impure, spoilt. This heat can be part of our salvation, part of our sanctification.

So even as we struggle, even as we hate the challenges, the heat, we can stay, trusting God.  He will work during the time when the heat is up, when we have to cry out,, Lord have mercy!   And we can learn to cry it out confidently, and be patient for the resolution, for the reconciliation.

For He is with us!  AMEN!

Lord Jesus, send forth your Spirit to all who are enduring times where the heat is rising when life is challenging because of conflicts, even those that we try and ignore, or hide.  Lord during these times, help us depend on You, trusting You to keep your promises to us.  Humble us when needed Lord,  keep us pliable and patient, comfort us and sustain us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1186-1189). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Who Am I? Escaping our own self-delusion.

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. Colossians 3:10 (TEV)

871      Tell him slowly: Good Jesus, if I am to be an apostle, and an apostle of apostles, you have to make me very humble. May I know myself. May I know myself and know you. Then I will never lose sight of my nothingness.

875      Lord, help me to be faithful and docile towards you, sicut lutum in manu figuli, like clay in the potter’s hands. In this way it will not be I that live, but you, my Love, who will live and work in me.

 

Each of us suffers from a delusion about who we are.

Some of them are simply naive, the young kid who thinks they will be the next Tom Brady ( or in my day Roger Staubach), the beautiful lady who thinks she is too fat, the average guy, who believes he is God’s gift to women, or the person that believes they are worthless, and beyond hope.

We each live, caught in the maze of self-delusion.  We don’t really know who we are, or what we are worth, or why we are worth anything.

This is one of the benefits of having a relationship with God; for as we are drawn closer to him, as He transforms us, our identity becomes clearer and clearer. An identity that finds contentment and serenity in knowing we are God’s creation, His masterpiece, the children He loves.

There is a paradox in this quest for self-awareness, in our search for the answer to “Who am I?” It requires an incredible amount of humility to realize the masterpiece (Eph 2:10) that we are.  It requires that we intimately know and are aware of God here, in our lives.  Not just the doctrine of His omnipresence, but the presence of God, the real, active, intimate presence of God in our lives. 

That is what it means to have a full knowledge of God.  We aren’t talking about theological knowledge, but moving with God, dancing with Him, confident of His presence and guidance.  It is then, as He reveals Himself to us, that we realize what our transformation is going to result in when it is complete.  Being in the image of God, not that we will be gods in our own right, but that we will have the qualities He has, especially the quality of being able to love purely.  The transformation happens as God strips away those delusions, as He draws our eyes to Him, This is what Jesus meant when He taught, 25  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (TEV)

Is this easy?  Nah.  We are still going to pick up our self-delusion, dust them off and try them on again.  We will try to convince people are far better than we are.  We are still going to battle what we’ve convinced ourselves of, that we have no worth. Which is why we don’t do this journey alone, it is why we have each other, pointing each other to Christ, reminding each other that God is at work and that He promised all things work for good for those who love God.

He is with you, and the more you know that the more you can cry out to Him, and have the confidence that He listens, answers, does and transforms you!

So relax, stop trying so hard to find yourself, relax and realize He is your God.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3091-3094). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why We Need the People that We Struggle with the Most!

clydes-cross-2The devotional thought of the day:

14  Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15  If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,

 

 

” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17  If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18  But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 (NLT)

666 You insist on doing your own thing, and so your work is barren. Obey: be docile. Each cog in a machine must be put in its place. If not, the machine stops, or the parts get damaged. It will surely not produce anything, or if it does, then very little. In the same way, a man or a woman outside his or her proper field of action, will be more of a hindrance than an instrument of apostolate.

A long time ago, as I was working at a major university and preparing to leave for my first pastoral position, the president of the university gave me some advice on leadership in ministry.

He told me that among the people I want on my leadership team would be those who opposed me. That the best ideas and advice would come from them, and often, they would stop me from shooting myself in the foot.

This runs a bit contrary to what most management and consultant types will tell you.  They will say you want all the people pushing on the same side of the box, sharing the same vision, people who have all bought into the plans.

And while this can be helpful in management or in ministry, you also need that person who will question you, who will keep you humble, who will be there, faithful to the church, faithful enough to say when you’ve messed up.

Of course, you may find this a challenge, having people around who oppose you is never easy.  Loving them and caring for them may be difficult, but they are part of the Body of Christ, they are a necessary cog in the machine, and if you would see it, they are a blessing from God. 

We can’t just do our own thing, we can’t always get our own way, often we don’t have the knowledge or the wisdom that together are needed to make things work.  If we try to be, getting rid of the people that don’t conform to our system, we are the one who is hindering the apostolate, the mission of the church. 

So next time someone gets on your nerves, the next time they question your idea, take a breath, thank God for their presence in your life, and consider what they say.

God’s peace!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2450-2454). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Leadership Challenge: Waiting

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought for our seemingly broken days

When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god z who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!”
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?” 22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil.  Exodus 32:1, 21-22 HCSB

What is truly great grows outside the limelight; and stillness at the right time is more fruitful than constant busyness, which degenerates all too easily into mindless busywork. 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 time is being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mystery of time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same in the area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do; where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoid facing the true mystery of inner growth toward God. And yet, in the area of religion, what we receive is at least as important as what we do.  (1)

Every leader, whether secular or religious has felt the pressure that Aaron felt in the passage above in red.  Taken from the Old Testament, this is one of the first times that he has had to act on his own as high priest.  Prior to this, he served as Moses spokesman, he said and did what he was told to say and do in the Old Testament Liturgy.

But now, in the absence of Moses, the people urged him to act, they urged him to make a decision, for that is what they thought a leader should do.  They couldn’t wait!  It is restlessness that Benedict XVI calls “Americanized”, the idea of resting and being still cannot be profitable, it cannot provide what we need.  In our mixed up world, waiting and resting has no benefit, no importance, no sense of progress.

Instead of helping his people wait on God, Aaron submitted to their desires (and then lied about it!)  As do too many of us.  We run around, keeping busy, unable to find those moments where we simply wait on God, where we breathe deeply and find in that stillness that He is here!

I find this is even true among myself and my peers in the Lutheran Church, who replace doing with learning or at least acquiring knowledge and passing it on, whether we are able to wisely apply it or not. We move from one guru of the past to another, from one theologian to another, constantly seeking and yet, I wonder if we can ever be satisfied with what we know.

We see this even in a church service, where a long silent pause is even painful.  When we struggle to take a moment to give to God the sins He longs to remove from our hearts and souls, when we struggle to be silent as we commune, unable to wait the time it takes to let our mind run out of the things it would use to distract us, unable to wait for the moment where peace and serenity and the rest that comes from being in His presence happens.

We need to learn to face the true mystery of our inner growth toward God, a growth that isn’t measured in pages read or written, a growth that isn’t measured with watches and calendars, a growth that is simply found, like Martha’s sister, sitting with Jesus, and being in awe of Him and His love for us.  Or like Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, who sat and pondered in her heart the message of God.

Aaron would not be removed from the priesthood, for God was patient with him.  The people would sin more often, and they would wander the wilderness for a generation.  God would forgive them, as He promised, as He will forgive us of our sins, including our lack of patience, our lack of trust, or lack of conversion.  Then again, that conversion is His work, for as Benedict reminds us, what we receive is at least ( I would say significantly more) than what we do.

Rest in God’s presence, dwell in His love and peace… for this is God’s will for you – and for everyone you know.  May God help to desire this and to see it happen.  Amen!

 

 

 

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

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