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Confession of a Burnt Out Minister of God

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the day:

14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame?  Jeremiah 20:14-18  HCSB

14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.

I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.

No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.

But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church.  It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.

Burnout is inevitable.

There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead.  (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!)  There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us.  Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write.  Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!

And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well.  We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.

We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary.  That God is with us, even there.  That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.

Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today.  Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil.  He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.

How did he do such a thing?

Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.

The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers.  Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament.  Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.

As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT) 

Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain.  But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you.  Being filled through all your being with God Himself.

That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God!  Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul!  AMEN!

Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

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. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why is He Standing at the Door, Knocking?

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT2)

117 Thus you see how God wants us to pray to him for everything that affects our bodily welfare and directs us to seek and expect help from no one but him.
118 But this petition he has put last, for if we are to be protected and delivered from all evil, his name must first be hallowed in us, his kingdom come among us, and his will be done. Then he will preserve us from sin and shame and from everything else that harms or injures us.

Our God is so eager to forgive that at the slightest sign of repentance he is ready with his mercy. He does not forget the covenant he made with our ancestors.

716    “I don’t know how to conquer myself!” you write me despondently. And I answer: But have you really tried to use the means?

As I read the passage from Luther’s Large Catechism (in blue above) this morning, I found words that explained a key to what we need to do as those who disciple others, or who act as spiritual directors. 

Luther nails it so well, as he explores the Lord’s prayer.  It is something we get so confused as we disciple people, as we serve as their spiritual directors and/or pastors.  In reality, we put the cart before the horse, asking people to believe in God’s mercy, in God providing for us, and in God’s forgiveness before God’s presence is established as a reality in their lives.   We want to help them know they are free from their past, and to be strong enough to overcome temptation.

St. Josemaria’s thoughts are similar, as he wonders about the person who can’t overcome the compulsion to sin and fail when confronted by temptation.  His question about the means of grace come to a similar conclusion as Luther’s.  If you haven’t been brought into the presence of God through hearing His word, and partaking in His sacraments, how can you ever be assured of His mercy and protection?  How can you know that He is guiding you and that all things work for good in your life, as you grow in loving Him?

Which brings me to the title of the blog post today, why is Jesus standing at the door and knocking?  Is it simply to call us to account for our sins, clean us up, forgive us our sins, strengthen us against temptation and then leave us to fight the good fight on our own?

Of course not!  

He comes to spend time with us, in fellowship, sharing in life.  TO feast with us, and for us to know we are there for Him.  It is all about the relationship, not just the things that He does that makes the relationship possible. That’s why Luther says we need to see His name made Holy, to see His kingdom established, to see His will be accomplished among us. All these things are based on God being present in our lives, walking with us, living with us.  This happens before we can know His provision, His protection, and really the power of what it means to be forgiven and free. 

You can’t know those things apart from the relationship described in Covenant, where God promises us that we are His and that He is ours.  That relationship is why He stands at the door and knocks.   He wants to be with us, it is sharing our lives as we share His.

For those who pastor, for those who disciple or direct the spiritual growth of people, (and if you are being served by such) this has to be the priority.  To explore the breadth and width the height and depth of God’s love as we experience it.  This is the end of the means, this is the purpose we exist for, and as we learn ot live in it, we find it easy to ask God and live in the assurance that He will answer our prayers for daily bread, for the ability to forgive as we are forgiven, to overcome temptation and not fall into evil.

Never forget this, the Lord is with you!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 436). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 223). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1679-1680). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What Really Matters; A sermon on life based from 2 Corinthians 12

church at communion 2What Really Matters
2 Cor. 12:1-10

 † In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize what matters in this life., which allows you to depend on His faithfulness.  AMEN!

The Fable of the Animals

As Vicar Timothy and I talked about this passage this week, he told me an ancient Chinese fable.

Once upon a time, there was a gathering of the animals.  And as they gathered along the seashore, they wanted to know about each other, what strengths they could bring to the community.  There was a gracious grand eagle, who told of his ability to soar high over the land and see how glorious the kingdom was.  There was a huge elephant, who talked about his power and strength that was greater than all of them so he could take on all the heavy jobs. A Blue whale, resting comfortably offshore, talked of being the largest animal in the ocean, and an ability to explore deeper than any other animal.  One after another they went, telling of what they could do best.

Finally, there was Mr. Frog, who looked around and considered all the incredible things others could do.  He didn’t do all that much, just sat on his lily pad and watched and observed and occasionally… caught a passing fly for dinner.  You know, sort of like this! He thought his life was boring, and if that’s all he said he was, the other animals would mock him, or laugh, or perhaps ignore him.  And so he came up with an odd talent of his and said he could transform himself into a much larger being.  So he swallowed more an more air, extending out his belly and making it larger.  He looked around and realized he didn’t impress anyone, so he refused to swallow his pride, swallowed more air and puffed himself up even more, and again, puffing himself up even more, and finally, he puffed himself up so much, his gut exploded, and body parts went all over the room.

Too Great – or the Ultimate martyr

We do this all the time, no matter the culture.  We want others to think we are great, or what we do is great. We want to be admired, we want to be someone, even if only in our grandparents, or grandkids eyes.  So we exaggerate a little. We feed our ego.

Or if we can’t be the greatest, we make ourselves out to be martyrs, those who sacrifice everything for others. I suffer more than you do, see how great I am at giving things up so you can have what you want?  That too feeds our ego, if we serve more and harder, and are willing to sacrifice everything.

It’s to people like us, the frogs of the world that Paul writes to when he writes to Corinthians. Average people, but people that struggle with their identity, with their reputation.

Paul, you know, the apostle who spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean Basin, the guy, who like John, had a revelation of Jesus that we’ve never read about, save in these few words. Paul, who wrote to the Philippians that all his earthly credentials were as valuable as the remains of the human digestive system.  Here is saying that even visions from heaven are not worth it, because maybe they take attention from what really matters.

And then he says something really strange, the problems he has, the thorns in the flesh, the stresses, the brokenness, these things are a blessing.  A blessing simply because when we are in the midst of the trauma when we are in the midst of the thorns. There, we hear God say these simple words,

My grace is all you need, Those were words that enabled Paul to boast, not about his strengths, not about his suffering, but his inabilities, his weakness, his brokenness. Because when he was at his worst, the power of God was able to be seen in Him.

My grace is all you need…..

If we could only understand that.

The incomplete fable
Going back to Timothy’s fable, it ends with the frog, blown out of shape, his body exploding from trying to live up to the hype, trying to live up to the pressure from blowing his value all out of proportion.

I asked him what he thought most people would think God would say if he walked up on the scene.  He thought most people in the world, even Christians, would expect God to lecture the frog, or even judge and condemn him for doing all that damage to himself.  For breaking the commandments, for making himself the idol that needed to be worshipped, for bearing false witness about himself.  Mr. Frog, people would think – you have done yourself in.

That is not the God that tells us, “My grace is all you need”  He gently picks up each part of us, and puts us back together, healing us.  That is what grace is, not just forgiveness as in, “you aren’t going to get punished for this” but the grace that brings healing to whatever we’ve done, that restores us and makes us hole.

What our sin destroyed, God calls back into being.  What sin has killed, God resurrects.

If he does that with our sin, He also does it with those things that challenge us in each day.  The insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that exist as we try and serve those who need it, as we care for those who can’t seem to care for themselves, as we love those who consider themselves unlovable.

Beyond our Sin

If this is true regarding Christ saving us, it extends into all our life and all our ministry to others.  We don’t need to be the one people praise, we don’t need to be the one everyone notices.

What matters is that people know we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that it will get us through the trials and pains that serving God too often results in, even if those challenges are as brutal as Paul mentions.  For that is Paul’s context, in this letter. He doesn’t care where he ranks among the apostles, even though he could claim it.

He would rather have God’s people know that in every part of life, the thing that matters is God is there.  If that is seen in his weakness, praise God. For then they know in their weakness, in their days where anxiety sets in, in those days when nothing gets done, or it seems two steps forward result in 10 steps back…

In those days, He is there, and our ministry, our caring for others, he does in ways far beyond anything we can imagine. For what really matters is that you know God’s love, and His mercy, and His faithfulness.  Understand that… and you will be at peace.

AMEN!

The Difference Between a Preacher and a Pastor

DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the day:
5 For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father r in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful t son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.   1 Cor. 4:15-17 HCSB

How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus, how much tenderness is in there!
Brothers and sisters let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

But what is it to pray that his name may become holy? Is it not already holy? Answer: Yes, in itself it is holy, but not our use of it. God’s name was given to us when we became Christians at Baptism, and so we are called children of God and enjoy the sacraments, through which he so incorporates us with himself that all that is God’s must serve for our use.

As I was working through my readings this morning, the first, the reading from Paul’s letter to a church he loved (and struggled to love) kept coming back to mind.   And then as I read Pope Francis, and Pastor Martin Luther’s words, I saw great examples of what Paul was teaching.

Anyone can deliver a lesson, a sermon that is exegetical and explains the Bible passage more completely than someone can see at first glance. To be honest, you don’t even need a good preacher to do so, for we have 2,000 years of commentators like John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Lenski, Matthew Henry and William Barclay who will do that for you.

Someone whose primary goal is preaching can do the studies, or borrow them from someone else, and lecture you, mailing you on what you did wrong, showing you how you must behave, and reminding you of who God is, helping you explore the incredible knowledge we have in scripture.  They are instructors, and we need that kind of information.

But a sermon, a real sermon, is something a pastor crafts and delivers.  It is a pastor, someone who acts as a spiritual father.  Someone who has learned from their errors, and cares enough to help you when you are in error, guiding you back to the way that is “in Christ”.

The pastor brings you to see God in all His glory, the glory that comes from our love and our mercy.   He wants you to experience the healing that happens when seeing Christ, you respond to His love being poured out upon you. When you realize as Luther said, that God through His word and sacraments, just doesn’t teach you, but see you incorporated into Christ that our thoughts turn to Him, depending on Him to care for us. 

A pastor shepherds you to the place where you realize what a treasure it is to know God as your Father, when you realize the difference that makes in your daily life, no matter how challenged, no matter how boring, no matter how broken.

you see this in the words of Pope Francis, and Fr. Martin Luther.  You see them not just wanting to impart knowledge of God, but helping people experience the love. 

Imagine a boy learning to teach.  The instructor tells him all about the bait, all about the rods and reels, all about the way to study the river or the lake.  The pastor father takes the young man fishing, watching him learn, urging him to be patient, applauding him when he catches something, consoling him when the big one gets away.  This is the father-pastor at work, and that care needs to occur in the midst of the sermon, in the midst of the worship service.  Helping people “catch” God, who is never far away….reading to be caught, ready to be devoured, ready to be incorporated i our lives, as we are incorporated in His.  

This is a pastor’s calling… to help people experience the love of Christ, even though it is too great ot understand fully (see Ephesians 3:19) while being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 216). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 425). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

The Darkness seems to close in… yet…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” 12  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:11-12 (MSG) \

19  O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. 20  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21  Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. 22  Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance! Isaiah 30:19-22 (NLT2)

470    The means? They’re the same as those of Peter and Paul, of Dominic and Francis, of Ignatius and Xavier: the cross and the Gospel. Do they seem little to you, perhaps?

There are days that seem absolutely dark, where the sinful nature of mankind is so dominant in my environment, that it seems like the darkness creeps in, and there is no light to see things by, to discern what is truth, what is shadow and what is evil. 

It seems like such times may never end, but how can we truly know that, when the darkness seems to totally envelop us.  How can we know that the next step won’t lead us out of the threatening forest and into the light? ( I often think that next step will be over the edge of a cliff, as my anxiety twists my discernment even more than the darkness had blinded it!)

As I read the first verse in my devotions, a song I’ve never heard from one of my favorite artists quoted it. And I knew that this is part of what I need to write, and hear this morning. 

Even though I can’t see in the dark, my Rescuer can, and He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. Even though I endure adversity, and suffer as I struggle to know God’s presence, it is there.  He can see us, and guide us, gently, firmly.

So much so that we will destroy those false gods, those things that supply a false hope. We will simply abandon them, finding no need to cling to them. 

This is why the saints and “great Christians” of the past are who they are.  Not because of their own faithful battle against the evil they encountered in their world, or in their own hearts. 

Why there were saints?  They clung to the God who saw them in their darkness.  They clung to the Lord who has them safely in His hands.  In the cross, not just at it, they found the peace that allowed them to relax, and be sustained by the God who came to them. St. Josemaria nails it, there is the cross, the Gospel, and they promise that we will rise with Christ, that we have risen with Jesus.

Even if we can’t see it yet.

He has found us, for He sees in the darkness. 

Count on that, even as you listen for His voice, even as He reveals the glorious light of His love for you.  

Lord, have mercy on us, as we struggle in the darkness.  Help us to depend on You, to be guided, cared for and healed by Jesus, for this is what You have always promised your people.  AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1151-1153). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection – We see people differently! A message based on Acts 8

church at communion 2

Transformed Minds:  The Effect of the Resurrection
We see people differently
Acts 8:26-40

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you see people as God does, and then may you allow God to use you as He used Phillip

How Accurate is our Sight?

Whether we admit it or not, most of us make snap judgments about people the first few times we see them based on their looks, the way they dress, the way they speak, and they carry themselves.

We might think that old guy, who clothes are all wrinkled, who hasn’t shaven In a week and looks like he hasn’t slept might be homeless. We might not know the old guy just spent his last week caring for his dying wife, never leaving her side.  Or that the wealthy lady’s husband just divorced her, and the forced smile is hiding an ocean full of tears.

But our view of our own lives can be as confused, and as inaccurate.

Most people would have seen the Ethiopian Eunuch and seen a man they would be envious of.  He had it all, all the power, all the authority that came with being the most powerful man in his country.  He wasn’t just a bookkeeper, He controlled the money in the treasury of one of the most powerful countries In His time.

And as His carriage wound through the streets of Jerusalem, accompanied by his guards and servants, many people would have thought his life worth living.

And how differently he must have thought.

How accurate was His,

This man, ad some would say you can’t call him that, came to Jerusalem to worship God. Yet, as a foreigner, one who would be noticed, he would find he wasn’t welcome.  Even more wo,uld he be rejected if they knew he was a Eunuch.

The older translations described the problem with bigger words, so I will use one of them.

1  “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Deuteronomy 23:1 (NKJV)

The newer ones translate that much more…graphically.

What this means is that this man would face rejection again.  Not only would he not be able to enter the Temple court because he wasn’t a Jewish male, he couldn’t have even entered the courtyard of the gentiles because of his physical deformity.

The very thing that had made him famous, wealthy, powerful beyond anyone’s imagination, also made him unable to be accepted among the people of God.   But it also divided him from his own people as well.  No wife for a eunuch.  No sons, no daughters. He would even be cut off from making friends, for his role required him to live a life isolated, alone, broken.

Like many of us today.  We may be separated by something in our life beyond our control and because of it we just don’t fit in, or we might be alone because of our sin.  Many of us here, even those seen to be strong, struggle inside with the sense of loneliness, isolation, brokenness.

And wonder if the world wouldn’t accept us, why would God?

That is what this Eunuch would have thought… and he would have known about the verse forbidding him from the temple courts, so why go?

His hope…

Here is why Since Solomon’s day, Ethiopia and Israel had a relationship, Centuries before, the ancestor of Candace, the Queen Sheba would have hear Solomon pray,

32  “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 33  then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (NLT)

And so the Eunuch goes there, to worship God, to find the God who promised him his prayers would be answered.

His Hope realized

I realized, as I prepared this time, why this passage from Isaiah drew the Eunuch’s attention.

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch resonates with the man the prophet speaks of, he’s known the silence, the humiliation, the pain.  He knows the emptiness of not having those who will follow him, no children, no descendants, and a major part of his life was ripped away. He identifies with this man, and want to know who it is..

And so from this point, the deacon Philip begins to explain all about Jesus, how he came, and left no physical children, but because of His death, his spiritual children, the people he would bring to the Father, would be a number to great to count.  That because of His sacrifice, we would all know healing.  We would be cleansed of all that sin that has mutilated our lives.

Just like eunuch.

God had prepared this man’s heart.  Phillip started from the pain, the loneliness the Eunuch, and brought the Eunuch the greatest news, the answer to prayer.

As He was baptized, he was united to Jesus, and he was never alone.  No wonder he ordered everything to stop, to be baptized, to gain all the promises that would shatter the darkness he lived in. to know the blessing of belonging to God.  His prayer was answered.

He could see himself differently, and Phillip had a new brother…Just as God works in our lives.

The lesson we learn..

Maybe you are feeling alone today.  It happens, we get bombarded with all the crap in the world.  Maybe you are feeling isolated from God, and from others.  This is the place to deal with it, to lay those burdens down, to allow God to pick you up.

And maybe you are to be a Phillip to someone today, or several people this week.  Be aware of God’s presence in your life, that because He is Risen indeed, therefore you are…..  And that is what the person, dressed like a beggar or a king needs to know.

God is with them, He will cleanse them of their sin, and heal them of their brokenness, and they will know His as their God, just as we do…for they will dwell in His peace.

Let’s pray…

Thoughts for our Dark Days

IMAG0406

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

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

101    Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful.
102    Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.

Recently, the skies in Southern California were filled with clouds.  Not the light fluffy kind that seems so high, but the dark, ugly, black storm clouds. The kind of clouds that are once fascinating, but also frightening.

Some of us are enduring those clouds spiritually.  Whether the storms are coming or not, we feel almost paralyzed as the clouds gather around us, coming at us from every direction. 

it is at those times when my prayers seem hollow, my devotions, just going through the motions. I want to move on past them, but the fog which St. Josemaria describes is enveloping us, just as the darkness seems to cover us.

St Josemaria advises us to persevere in prayer, not in pushing our prayer, but listening more carefully, becoming aware of the Lord’s presence, until it shatters the darkness, until the Holy Spirit breathes into us, clearing away the fog. comforting us,  loving us. 

SO what do we do?  Do we fight the burden?  Do we just abandon our prayer time, discounting it as too draining, to ineffective, and not worth it?  Do we let guilt swallow us because we wonder if our faith is lacking and that is why our prayers are so dry?

I’ve been there, done that, given up, said I will come back in tomorrow, or next week, and once, it was a year…

What I didn’t realize was that these “down times” are essential for my spiritual health.  They teach me like they did Ezekiel, who hid in a cave, waiting to find God in the storm and in the fire, then recognizing God’s still small voice after hiding.  Why else would Jesus Himself head into the mountains to pray, or go to the garden, begging his friends to watch and pray with Him? 

We need to be ministered to by God.  We need to let Him love us, care for us, comfort us, and kindle the spark of love that exists in us. 

As I come out of these times or at least see the light of the tunnel, I can begin to realize the power of God that raised Christ from the dead is at work in our lives.  

And I need that… so need that.

So I’ve learned to try and persist in prayer, waiting to hear He will have mercy, to know His presence and love.  ANd some days, I can even rejoice in the dry times, knowing that God is going to take care of it.

As he does for all He loves… and you are one of those He does!

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 389-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Having one of “those” days? You aren’t alone…..

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

Devotional THought of the Day:
41  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42  and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43  Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord’s mother comes to visit me? 44  For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45  How happy you are to believe that the Lord’s message to you will come true!” Luke 1:41-45 (TEV)

2  John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3  “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4  Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5  the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6  And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” Matthew 11:2-6 (NLT)

32  And John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and stay on him. 33  I still did not know that he was the one, but God, who sent me to baptize with water, had said to me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on a man; he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34  I have seen it,” said John, “and I tell you that he is the Son of God.” 35  The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36  when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said. John 1:32-36 (TEV)

106    You wrote, and I well understand: “Every day I spend my ‘little time’ in prayer. If it weren’t for that …!”

As I was reading the 3rd reading about John the Baptist this morning,  (part of my daily routine) I thought of the other two readings.

John, before he was born, and while Jesus was even younger, recognizes the presence of God. (not to mention what happened to John’s mom must have been cool!)  Incredible experience!

Move to the second reading, and now John is in prison, he is having one of “those” kind of days. Miserable, depressed, anxious and afraid, he needs to be encouraged, he needs to remember that what he devoted his life to, actually was worth it.

A bad day to say the least.

A day where even he, a prophet, doubted the very prophecy he was meant to give.

John, who had pointed to Christ, who knew him well, who proclaimed he was Israel’s hope, doubted and struggled with trusting God.

Just like we do!

There is a lot of hope in this realization, that John the Baptist could have one of those days, and apparently more than one.  That he could be so caught up by his own situation that he needed to know God was at work, that God’s promises are true.

And God responded to his query, John wouldn’t die without knowing for sure Jesus was the Messiah, that John’s ministry was validated, it was good, it was needed.  That Jesus was still there, doing what John knew he would do, even when he didn’t know.

And Jesus is here for you and I, His promise is that we are never alone.  ( Read Psalm 139 sometime – David realized God couldn’t be outrun either)

Even when we struggle, even when we doubt, God is there…. and will respond to our cries, our cries of despair, our cries of doubt, even our cries of anger and frustration.  He hears you and I and responds.  As St. Josemaria notes, if it weren’t for those little times of prayer, where we listen, where we vent, …

This is the lesson of John the Baptist, the lesson that even the greatest stumble and struggle, and are ministered to by God.  For He hears us…and loves us.  AMEN

Does it help you to know the prophets and apostles struggled and doubted?  That they ahd bad days as well?
How do you feel when you realize God was there, working behind the scenes?  Can you accept that you won’t always be able to see Him at work?

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 397-399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is Worship Boring?

Altar with communionDevotional Thought of the Day:

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
20  Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine – to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen! Ephesians 3:14-20 (Phillips NT)

77    You told me that to tie yourself to a plan of life, to a schedule, would be so monotonous! And I answered, “It is monotonous because you lack love.”

It is sometimes.  Ver much so more than I would like to admit.

It doesn’t matter if it is a high powered contemporary service, or a organ blasting traditional service, or a small intimate worship time on a retreat.

Church services can be boring, even monotonous,

And while the pastor and those who music facilitates our praises can impede or encourage worship, there is one key that absolutely makes the difference in whether you find a church and the worship service.

You.

I’ve seen couples where one is completely engaged in worship, one is actively engaged, and talks about church as the high point of their week.  The spouse, however, was so disengaged that they eventually fell asleep.

What makes the difference in perception is the person.

St Josemaria says it well, it is monotonous because of the truth of this, you lack love.

And if you lack love, there are two options, you are unable to love God and others, or what is necessary to love him, you haven’t been immersed in the reality of HIs love for you.  You haven’t had the opportunity, as St Paul desired for you, to explore the incredible dimensions of that love for you.

Not just know the love as a piece of data, because you can’t fully, it is so far beyond our comprehension, You need to be filled with that love, you need to be filled with God.

And that is the purpose of a church service, to help you explore that depth, and those who lead are simply guides on the journey.  Guides who hopefully are still in awe of the same journey, pointing out this treasured point, and that, how this explores the heights, and that explores the depths.

For if you know how incredible God’s love is for you,

And when you do, the hunger to more will help you engage, to enter the service as a participant as we dance with God, rather than being an observer.  For everyone has a part in worship, every voice has its role, a part in the service.  It’s not just about the guys up there in robes,   We are just there to point you to the love that God has for you, the incredible love that makes a difference in every aspect of your life.

So when you come into a church, expect something special, expect to hear you are loved, listen for it, rejoice in it, walk in it, even dance in it, and then love and adore the God who loves you.

The same service will never be the same.

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 339-340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

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