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Why is Spiritual Growth such a Long Ordeal?

Thoughts that drag me close to Jesus

Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10.  NLT

When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.

Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…

The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.

Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.

This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!

Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!

For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.

Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.

That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.

It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.

Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.

I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…

And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.

He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!

and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.

I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 415.

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 209.

The Obstacle to Spiritual Growth

Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…

29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)

After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.

In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.

Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.

The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.

Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.

That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.

Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….

Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

We MUST Experience God’s Grace…

aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 1 Cor. 10:16

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5 Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! Romans 5:1-2 GNT

To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: ‘It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the Eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should moreover be trained to consider the Eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self-offering which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the Eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ who is really present under the Eucharistic species.’ (Pastores dabo vobis, 48)

The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him.

For God decided not only that we should believe in the crucified Christ, but that we should also be crucified with him and suffer with him, as he clearly shows in many places in the gospels. “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me,” says the Lord, “is not worthy of me” [Matt 10:38]. And again, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matt 10:25)! Therefore, each one must carry a piece of the holy cross, and it cannot be otherwise. St. Paul says as well, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” [Col 1:24]. It is as if he were saying that his whole Christianity is not yet completely prepared, and we also must follow so that nothing is lost or lacking from the cross of Christ, but all brought together into one heap. Everyone must ponder that the cross cannot remain external.

There is so much in my readings today, that I am struggling to put it all together!

But it all starts with the Christian life that we have been brought into, what Luther described as living in our baptism, this becoming the gift (In Pope Benedict’s words). One of my professors would have called it living the “Incarnational life” or the “Sacramental life”

It is why we, as a church, need to stop just going through the motions of worship, and why we who are taked with leading have to avoid the trap of manipulating the emotions in the way we plan our services, but simply live in the moment as well.

The challenge is then to let go and live in the liturgy we have, to realize how close it brings us to Christ, how it reveals His love in a way that we experience it, in the way it stimulates and strengthens the hope we have. It is why the seminarian is encouraged to spend as much time as possible contemplating and meditating on the Lord’s Supper, realizing the presence of God, His Body and Blood, that we serve our people, that serves us.

It is this feast, this sacrifice that draws us into Christ’s sacrifice, just as baptism and the other sacraments do, that gives us the faith to trust God as we commune with Jesus as we take up our crosses as well. As we embrace suffering for the hope it gives those around us, as they realize we aren’t just going through the motions, or saying what we think we should say.

For if we realize the love, the mercy and dwell in God’s peace, our people will see it. We won’t just go through the motions of worship, we shall indeed live in it, and the words of the liturgy, drawn from scripture will become alive, not just in us, but in all who participate.

Go back up and read the words again, these words from scripture of the Apostle Paul. See the depth of them, this great encouragement to live in the experience of grace, this being so overwhelmed by the hope of living, knowing we shall share in the glory of God, that we live in the love of the Father, who loves us as much as He loves the Son.

This is why we gather, this is why we savor the words we say and sing in our churches, this is why we study for years to lead the people of God. To help them dwell in the midst of His peace, His presence, His glorious love.

And then, we see something amazing, we become the gift….

Lord, help us to move past the phase of “going through the motions” and then having to manipulate worship. Instead, help us to live in the grace of which we speak, and of which we sing. Help us Father, we pray in the name of Jesus, Who live and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!

Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 136–137). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 191–192). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. 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. 152). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Why I Am Thankful for Non-Theologian Believers

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practicing it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel. Ezra 7:10 GNT

The arrogance of the specialist in matters of faith is just an especially obdurate form of the blindness inherent in all arrogance. The faith that rediscovers the fresh water of God’s word in the desert of a godless world, in the empty conversations at fashionable spas, may be inferior to that of the specialist in the knowledge of biblical textual criticism, but it is often infinitely more clear-sighted as to what is actually to be drawn from this source.

But God, our dear eternal Father, who has so richly enlightened us through God’s dear Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, might, through the Holy Spirit, also strengthen us with complete faith and give us the power to follow such a light faithfully and diligently, and praise and glorify God together with all the nations, with both [our] life and teaching. To God be thanks and honor for all God’s ineffable grace and gifts eternally. Amen.

To be spiritually mature doesn’t require one to have a great understanding of systematic theology. To be holy doesn’t always require the greatest knowledge of exegesis and hermaneutics. In fact, such knowledge, or to be “the specialist in matters of faith”

In fact, I have found that my greatest times of academic learning have been some of my weakest moments of faith, and the times when the practice of the faith, my walking as a believer, has suffered the most. It is those times when prayer and meditation have diminished, and I lost sight of my own brokenness, and didn’t struggle with it.

And I know I am not alone.

We can’t lost sight of the “big picture”, which is in fact a simpler picture is what we need to know, what will change our lives. The “specialist” can help us realize how deep the thought goes, but should they lose sight of the main teaching, they work becomes vain.

you see this is Ezra, a great scholar, a priest with exceptional credentials, a man who lived what he believed, depending on God, and spent his time teaching it to others. It wasn’t enough to just study the law and be expert in it, he had to live it, he had to share that life with others, and guide them in living it.

That is what Pope Beendicts speaks of when praising the clear-sightedness of the simple whose vision is what one receives from God. It is at the heart of Luther’s words about the Holy Spirit stregthening our faith so as to follow such a light, and then praise God for all that is provided.

It is why some of my people with the deepest faith, take the time (and have the courage) to ask when they don’t get what I am saying are so precious to me. They want to know about God’s love enough that they don’t hold back, they don’t worry as much about offending me as they are hungry to know about God’s love.

And in asking me, they help me stay focused on what matters, and use whatever skills, ability and knowledge to help them grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust Him when nothing else makes sense. In helping me minister to them, they help me grow, perhaps more than you would ever know.

They trust God, they depend on the Lord who loves them, and they help me do the same. That in turn helps me minister to them effectively.

This is how the church should work, and I am thankful for God’s work in our lives.

Lord, help us ever be in view of Your presence, and help us to always share the exploration of Your live, its width and breadt, height and depth together as Your people. Help me, as a pastor, use my knowledge and abilities to draw people closer to Jesus. Amen.

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. 190). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 150). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 195). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Challenge of the Cost of Revival

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you rule in heaven over all the nations of the world. You are powerful and mighty, and no one can oppose you. 7† You are our God. When your people Israel moved into this land, you drove out the people who were living here and gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, your friend, to be theirs forever. 8 They have lived here and have built a temple to honor you, knowing 9 that if any disaster struck them to punish them—a war,d an epidemic, or a famine—then they could come and stand in front of this Temple where you are worshiped. They could pray to you in their trouble, and you would hear them and rescue them. 2 Chron. 20:6-9

If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first.
Between a rugged Church coming out to the streets and a Church sick of self-referential narcissism, without doubt, I prefer the first.
When the Church does not walk, she falls apart like a sandcastle
.

The Lord requires us to go to the end of our misery, our poverty, our sin when we are before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Being poor, this is our title of nobility.

Perfect Churches don’t need revival, so they do not see it happen. The same goes for people who have it all together, whose lives are not crushed by sin, who have no worry about death, who never had to deal with temptation, or struggle with demonic activity.

Of course, the only churches and eople that are that good are those who are already in the God’s presence.

The rest of our churches are wounded and broken. Their people are not prim and proper, but are worn down, and look and smell like they’ve just finished a 10 hike in the mountains and desperately need a bath, a showed, and manybe another bath.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a church that is about to undergo revival, a person who about to experience God’s ability to transform them must be in the mdist of their misery, they must address their spiritual poverty. For there, they can cry out to God, in the place where He has set aside to remind them He is with them, they He is patient and desires to transform us.

For as we cry out, we begin to see the reality of His rescue, we being to see the salvation that He has promised is not far off, but that we are in the midst of it.

He will hear us.

For it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to call upon Him, to reach out, only to find He’s been there all the time.

And in awe at His work, His patience, His love, we find the life He has created us to live. A life that is not static, a life that findss meaning in revealing His love to others.

A life that llives for the moment when another person, or another community realizes that God is with them.

Lord, help us learn to stop hiding from our brokenness, but tather let you heal and restore us. AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 185). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 123). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

A Question of Primary Importance to Your Life!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

31  “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)

Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.

Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.

“How is your spiritual health?”

More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.

You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.

I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves

– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.

I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.

We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.

But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,

This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.

We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life

It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.


Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. AMEN!

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

John O’Donohue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

You need to be a saint…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)

250    I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.

In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.

His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.

If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him.  Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.

Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description,  It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.

Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do.  In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.

It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help.  It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression.  A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.

But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect.  It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy  Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.

We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.

Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Battle for Spiritual Growth….is Not What it Seems…

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:
12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.      Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.    Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.

King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer.  St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! )  We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression.  We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.

That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.

St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better.  I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.

Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?

Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.

The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin.  It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.

Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us.  Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.

This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful.  As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.

May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.

For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.

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

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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