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A Life in Retreat? Yes and No….

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional thoughts for our days
4  Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.
6  Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.
8  Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-8 (Phillips NT)

39      I see myself like a poor little bird, accustomed only to making short flights from tree to tree, or, at most, up to a third floor balcony… One day in its life it succeeded in reaching the roof of a modest building, that you could hardly call a skyscraper. But suddenly our little bird is snatched up by an eagle, who mistakes the bird for one of its own brood. In its powerful talons the bird is borne higher and higher, above the mountains of the earth and the snow capped peaks, above the white, blue and rose pink clouds, and higher and higher until it can look right into the sun. And then the eagle lets go of the little bird and says: Off you go. Fly! Lord, may I never flutter again close to the ground. May I always be enlightened by the rays of the divine sun—Christ—in the Eucharist. May my flight never be interrupted until I find repose in your Heart.

Far too often do I resemble St Josemaria’s little bird, content and yet bored with the simple life we struggle through.  Not only do I lack the power and skill to soar above the heights, I fear to do so, for flying that high means I could crash.  And if crashing close to the ground is hard, how much more devastating would it be to crash when I am spending time in the heavens?

The idea of soaring with eagles sounds nice, it sounds incredible, but I’ve been on too many retreats and had to come back to “reality” from the mountaintop experience.  Even worse, I’ve seen what it can do where people only see that mountaintop experience as the only blessed thing in their lives.  Where they live, remembering the high of the last retreat, and looking forward to the next one.

If only we didn’t have to come down!  

If only I wasn’t so afraid of those heights.

Paul urges us to delight in God, to give to him every detail of every problem, depending upon Him to receive them as He promised when He asked us to cast all our burdens upon Him.  He begs us to keep our eyes on the things that are good, that are Godly,

Does that require us to stay soaring in the heavens, only to be worthless here on earth?  Do we like the monks of old or the Amish, separate ourselves from the world?  How can we be in the world but not of it, as Jesus asks?

Is this command of Paul, to delight in God, to rejoice in all things possible?  Or is it just an unfulfilled dream?  And if it is unfulfilled, does this mean the negative impact I think it does, a life lived in disobedience and therefore condemnation?

I can’t worry about that question, nor its answer.  it is beyond my role, beyond my experience. For if I worry about that, the more I will not spend my time delighting in Him, and the less likely it will be for me to run to Him for the forgiveness I so need, for the comfort and consoling that will restore to me the joy of my salvation, and the awe of being found in His presence, and loved.

For that is where the delight comes from, in realizing how incredible God’s love is, a love that desires to make itself manifest in every moment of our lives.   love that would shape our lives with thoughts about what is righteous and just, what is lovely and pure, what is of God.

May our desire to dwell in His presence be satisfied, and may be not be satisfied with anything else.  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 366-374). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

No Retreat….No Escape.. but no need…You are Holy

Devotional Thought of the Day…

“God is not removing you from your environment. He is not taking you away from the world, or from your condition in life, or from your noble human ambitions, or from your professional work… But he wants you to be a saint—right there!”  (1)

Well, we made it to Saturday!  The week is seemingly over for most of us, and we can enter a moment of rest for our weary bodies.  If you look at the freeway last night, or this morning, there were people on their way out of town.  Some were in RV’s, others pulling toy haulers, others on their way to the bright lights of Vegas.  All working at a feverish pitch to escape, to get away, to escape.  Some are leaving on more nobler causes – a weekend retreat in the mountains with other people who trust in Jesus. Even so, there is a sense of haste, a sense of a need to escape the world.

Throughout the centuries, people of faith felt this need as well.  Whether it was the acetic monks finding caves in Egypt, or the orders that built monasteries that looked more like castles, some of talked of the need to escape the world to pursue holiness.   And they did.  To tell you the truth there is a great temptation there for me, to escape the distractions, to escape the conflicts, to escape the temptations and the problems of life.  That was the thought then, that holiness and full concentration on God could be attained if we only gained enough separation from the world.  What they tried to do for a lifetime – we have sped up – and seek the same things in a weekend!

I know myself though, and it is my nature that anything could become a distraction from God.  Instead of a charged comment on Facebook, it could be the ant trail.  Instead of the commercial with scantily clad models selling a hamburger, or a phone, it could be hunger.  Jesus understood what makes us tick, and He said “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:20-23 (NLT) 

So if our reason for escape is to avoid temptation, to avoid sin, to pursue holiness/sainthood, then we can’t succeed by simply running away, or finding a remote place.

Another reason to try and escape the world would be “rest”, yet I’ve seen the work it takes to get my camper ready for the weekend.  The stress of driving through traffic, and then the stress of setting up, and taking down, camp.  Not an easy thing!  For 20-25 hours of rest we add 12 more backbreaking hours of work and driving!

The quote got me thinking practically today.

If escaping the world (for months/years)  and its “input” doesn’t help us find either great rest or achieve holiness, then what does?

I believe the answer is found quite simply, in being transformed into the likeness of Christ just in the place we are.  For there is no place on earth where we cannot find Christ’s peace, where we cannot find rest and holiness as we abide in Him.  Jesus said we are not of the world, yet He also said we are in it. Our vocations are found in life, in work, in our marriages, in being parents and children, in being friends, in being part of a community.  In being apostles, sent by God to share the hope of His love and mercy and presence.

It is here, as we live in Christ, that we find our rest.  It is here, that we find out our holiness, our being set apart.

For He is here, because the Spirit has gathered us, because we have been united with Christ, and causes us to abide in Him.

You have no need to escape, no need to retreat from the world you know, save for short periods of time to pray, to study His word, to Worship.  but those things must be part of your daily life here.   Pray unceasingly, find your focus in your devotion to Him.

Know that you dwell in His peace!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1428-1430). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Leadership in the Church

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

As I am sitting in the kitchen, at the end of my devotions, watching an elder cook breakfast,  I am reviewing my study that I will share this day.

The theme of the retreat is the calming peace God brings to our lives in love.  Great stuff so far, but today it “comes home”  FOr I am going to take that passage and apply it to our leadership style.  Which is peaceful and calming because it is opposite  of our style in life.

Here are the passages we are using:

5:1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.   1 Peter 5:1-3 (NLT)

20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Acts 20:28 (NKJV)

2:27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Mark 2:27-28 (NLT)

In the church, leadership flows from Christ, it is sacrificial  it endures, with the same joy that Christ had set before Him, and endures crosses and suffers even, that those we are responsible for, know His love, that they are calmed by it, as we bring them into His presence (or perhaps better said, we reveal that they are in His presence)

That is challenging – for leadership in the church is messy, and demanding, and sometimes the people we serve are demanding, yet unsure of what they need, and anxiety laden to get it.  Sometimes in order to come alongside them (to be a paraclete) we have to endure their pain with them.  And sometimes – we have to get used to being discomforted, challenged, and we have to sacrifice our preferences because of the needs of those who need Jesus.

For that is our call – to be conduits of grace, not to block the transmission of it because of our own idolatry, because of our own narcissism.

We can’t let the sabbath dominate the people, as Jewish leaders did.  We can’t let the way we twist the law oppress them, and the rules we set to make governing it easier.  (it’s funny that my elders are now arguing over whose in charge in the kitchen, somewhat appropriate… oh wait, now to deal with gossip…sigh)

But that is the point of leadership – we need to serve – not command,  We need to be responsible, not authoritarian.

We need to be like Christ, and as we do, we find His glory, His peace, His love… just in the moment we need to reflect it.

Lord have mercy on your servants….. and help us serve as You did, for the joy set before us!  AMEN!

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