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Dealing with Loneliness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
20  I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. 21  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22  The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— 23  I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:20-23 (MSG)

But the opposite can also happen: men, who are made for love, can find in this presence that is everywhere around them the security for which their whole being cries out. They can see therein a victory over the loneliness that no human individual can ever banish even though it is in direct contradiction to our being, which cries out for a You, for someone to share our life. In this secret presence, men can find a reason for the confidence that makes life possible for them. At this point, their response to the question of God’s existence acquires critical proportions.

Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him266 and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,267 some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding “clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is”;1* but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him

My name is Dustin, and I am an extrovert.  My vocation is that of being a pastor, where it seems I am constantly surrounded by people.

And I  get lonely.

Even with an awesome church that doesn’t acknowledge the formal line between my being their pastor and being their friend!  (this is a great blessing, an incredible one)  Even with a great wife and incredibly bright son. it still happens.

There is time to be alone, but loneliness is a different thing. Being alone is needed at times, and is both restful and restorative.  Loneliness is wearing, it is needing someone to relate to, of not wanting to be alone, of needing not to be alone.

Loneliness, Pope Benedict wrote, was something we can never banish.  He also noted how it is in direct contradiction to our very existence.   That creates a very ugly paradox, the one thing we can’t avoid is what robs us of who we are.  The emptiness, the inability to express love, and ot know we are loved wreaks havoc with our psyche, with our soul. We are designed to share this life we live with others, which is why sin is so devastating, as it shatters our ability to relate to others.  It devalues them, and without anyone to truly value us, the loneliness drives us further into despair, and into the bondage of sin and addiction.

I said I knew this struggle, as do many of those I know in ministry, as most people who are happily married.  There are still times where the darkness of loneliness forms and tries to crush the individual.

so where do I find hope?

Among other places, I find it in singing a hymn in our liturgy.  The words preceding it are “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven, we praise and magnify your glorious name..even more praising you and singing”  In that moment, I realize that friends that have passed away, and others that are singing it with me, and millions across the globe (along with angels ) are praising God together. Our voices are crying out to save us,   (for this is what Hosanna means) to the One who can save us.  Save us from the sin which divides us, from that which makes breaks us and leaves us unable to love, and unable to perceive we are loved.

We are, the very people the Spirit draws to Jesus, and in united to Jesus, we find our unity in God our Father, we are in Him, even a Jesus is.

As I read these words of mine, they seem too theological, to philosophical, to other-worldly to communicate the truth, the reality that I know. The presence of God, that should I remember leaves me never alone, and brings draws me out of the darkness, of my loneliness, and fills me with peace and comfort and joy.

This is why the gathering of believers around God’s word, and the sacraments where God pours out Hiss

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.

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

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.

Do We Desire God’s Presence? Do we Desire Eternity?

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day       :This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..now used for something else.

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. Psalm 27:4 (TEV) 

11  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 

857 Someone we know well told us sincerely, in confidence, that he had never been bored, for he had never been on his own, without our Friend. It was late in the evening, and there was a great silence… You felt very intently the presence of God… And, in the knowledge of that reality, what peace!  (1)

Each morning that I find myself in my office, I start the day with the morning liturgy from “Celtic Daily Prayer”.  Each morning I do so, after remembering my baptism while making the sign of the cross, the very next thing is Psalm 27:4. I read the words and often ask myself a question.

Do I really want only that – to live in His house all my life, for all eternity?

Let me confess, I struggle with that, as I imagine you do.

And if I struggle with living with Him here, in this time and place; I also struggle with seeing that which Solomon mentioned, that God has planted eternity in my heart.  For often my heart and mind are not centered there.  Some things I desire may be good and beneficial, like seeing people given the gift of faith, and the promises that come from Baptism and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  I desire the church to grow, to find reconciliation where it is so needed.  But anxiety over making that happen.

Is my first desire God’s presence, to be where He abides?

There are times it is, and I can think back over the years and long for those times again.  The quiet sanctuaries of my youth, the incredible retreats I’ve been on, the baptisms, the putting into people’s hands the body and blood of Christ. The holding someone’s hand while they passed away, just silently praying.  Praying again with my son, when he fit in the niche of my arm, praying that God would bless him, and through him many people.  They are my treasured times, they are the best moments of my life.

Yes I do desire this, and I cannot but help look forward to eternity, because of promises like this:

9  However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)

The times are precious, when I can sit and meditate on this, when I contemplate my baptism, or the Eucharist, or receiving the incredible news that my sins are absolved.

It is then I realize the peace the Josemaria’s friend new, the silence, the presence of God.  That which we do desire the most, if we take a moment to realize it.

Be still, my friends, and know there is a God, and you are His…..

It is worth every micro-second.  For there eternity, the eternity planted in our hearts is revealed.

For eternity is yours already.  He is with you…

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3511-3515). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How life is Built, or How a Temple is… the oft overlooked secret

devotional thought of the day:The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

7  The stone blocks for the building of The Temple were all dressed at the quarry so that the building site itself was reverently quiet—no noise from hammers and chisels and other iron tools. 1

2  “About this Temple you are building—what’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you, following my instructions carefully and obediently. Then I’ll complete in you the promise I made to David your father. 13  I’ll personally take up my residence among the Israelites —I won’t desert my people Israel.” 14  Solomon built and completed The Temple. 1 Kings 6:7, 12-14 (MSG)

74         You are not happy because you make everything revolve around yourself as if you were always the centre: you have a stomach-ache, or you are tired, or they have said this or that… Have you ever tried thinking about Him, and through Him, about others?  (1)

It is ithe plan of the Masterbuilder that all of the business of making rough rock into perfectly fitting, polished stone be accomplished in the stone quarry.  There, beyond this place, beyond that door, is only the assembling of what has been done here. (2)

I have read of Solomon’s building of the temple many times, the dedication of that temple is one of m favorite portions of all of scripture. The gathering of God results in God’s presence being so manifest, that smoke fills the temple, and no priest can offer any sacrifice.  The people of God pray, and are forgiven.  Others come and pray, and God makes Himself real to them.  God and people.

Yet in the midst of the work, verse 7 gets overlooked, it gets lost in the details, in the glory, in the imagery. I never even bothered to ask why the work was done in the quarry before.  

Thinking on it now, as the son of a man who build tons of stone walls (literally) it amazes me.  To so carve the rock as to be sure of its fitting, to so care for the work as it is transported to the temple mount, to then be fitted into place, perfectly.  It is mindblowing to think of this with lasers and high power saws and polishers, but this work was done with chisels, and hammers, carved lovingly by hand. And in the temple, even as it is being build, reverent silence…It is built in peace, the joining mortar laid, the stones carefully put in place. Peace, quiet, solemnity.

No wonder the building of the temple of God in its fullness happens outside the walls, outside even the city, the noise of the hammers pounding not heard within its walls.  The only noise to be heard there, the tear of a thick curtain….as the Holy of Holies is revealed without its glory.  Without the ark, for that which fulfils the covenant, that glory is hanging, nailed to a tree.  The Body given, the Blood poured out, the sins forgiven, forever.  And peace reigns as the shadows come, and darkness falls…….

To often we don’t wait to get to the silence, to see the glory of God – to know His peace.  We are too busy with our issues, with our ailments, with that which pounds and shapes us, Fr. Josemaia is right, we focus on the now, and we don’t see the temple being build, we don’t see God put each one of us in place.

We don’t see the plan, the beauty, the glory coming together because we choose to live back in the quarry, rather than to see where God has put us in His living temple. To trust Him at His word, at His promise. To realize that we aren’t in the quarry, really, Hear how Paul says it…

1 Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. 2  Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, 3  because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. 4  But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NJB)

Though we may think we are not finished yet, those who believe have in many ways left the quarry, and are sitting here, in the temple, just waiting for Christ to put us in place.  That is where our life is, and we are encourage to see it that way.  Our life, shaped and designed and lived out in Christ. We’ve taken some pounding – He has taken more for us. We are in His presence, in a place where the pounding has already been done. We have been delivered and saved… and my prayer for you, is that you realize this more and more, and live in the peace and serenity that is found in Christ.  For be assured,

6  And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (TEV)

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 531-534). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer  (devotions from Finian readings for April 5th

The World is My… monastery?

Devotional thought of the day:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Philippians 2:14-16 (TEV) 

738 I will never share the opinion—though I respect it—of those who separate prayer from active life, as if they were incompatible. We children of God have to be contemplatives: people who, in the midst of the din of the throng, know how to find silence of soul in a lasting conversation with Our Lord, people who know how to look at him as they look at a Father, as they look at a Friend, whom they love madly.  (1)

One of my favorite writers in David Morrell, who weaves tales of intrigue which happen to include a lot of soul searching.  Often his heroes flirt with monasticism and the need for sanctuary and refuge.In one of my favorite stories, he starts in a monastery, located in one of my favorite places in the world – the mountainous forests of New England.  The monks live separately from each other, in three room cells – a work room, a bedroom, and a small prayer room in between.  Part of me craves that kind of life, only to come out of my cell for worship and communal prayer.

My work room would be musical and a library, my time spent writing, and dare I dream, composing music on guitar. Solitude, peace, quiet, .  If you know me well, you are porbably thinking that I would never stand it, the extrovert I am would be driven nuts in a place like that.  No electronics, no interaction with others?  Are you really kidding Dustin?

No, I would fill the time with music and plunging the depths of writers that it takes that kind of solitude to comprehend.  Pascal, Chesterton, Luther, Augustine, the Shepherd of Hermas, Douglas Adams.  ( I could keep going…)  To just play my guitar without thought of time, but focusing on playing to God.

I would love it – even as I realize it would take a week or two to get used to it.  Our need for refuge, for sanctuary seems to be growing exponentially, even as we face information overload, even as our lives become complicated by gadget, even controlled by them.  Even as communciation and agendas and pressures overwhelm and confuse us.

Unfortunately, that is not my reality.  It is not my call. I live in the “real” world.  And I thrive in helping people – especially helping them know God’s love.

So the question becomes… can I make the world my monastery?  Can i live life in such a way that it is my monastic workroom?  Where I invest myself, as I would in music, or in reading/comprehending, but with people?  Can I see these things as sacred and holy as spending time on my knees.  I am not like Luther, who saw little value in monstacism, I see a great benefit to the monastic lifestyle – but can we live our lives with such intent, with the peace that is found in such sanctuaries in the real world? Can we live, shining like stars, reflecting the glory and love of God in the midst of the darkness, the chaos, the stress?

That is one of the reason I would love to sit down with Josemaria, for 40 and 50 years ago, he seemed to be able to accomplish this.  Surely he had his struggles, he freely admitted them in his writings.  But somehow, from many different accounts, he was able to see the world as one complete work of God – that it was in the midst of the anxiety and stress where we shine brightest, where we can find the stillness of the soul, and the presence of God.

The world is my monastery?  Yeah – it is, when I am in coversation with God while in the middle of it all.

It is my sanctuary – when I realize I live in Him in it.

God’s peace is with us….an amazing, undescribable peace…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2671-2675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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