Devotional Thought for the Year:
You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. 4 I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. Psalm 23:3b-4 (CEV)
I love to speak of paths and ways, because we are travelers, journeying to our home in heaven, our Father’s land. But don’t forget that, though a path may have some particularly difficult stretches, and may occasionally involve wading across a river or passing through an almost impenetrable wood, as a rule it will be quite passable and hold no surprises for us. The danger lies in routine, in imagining that God cannot be here, in the things of each instant, because they are so simple and ordinary!
I am tired.
In the last year, almost 10 percent of my congregation passed away. Not one from Covid. And that was only a small part of the trauma my people endured…
This year seems to be competitive so far. Yesterday, I received news of a mentor whose health is failing. Then, a message that a staff member’s sister is in ICU after a drunk hit her head-on. I was with my mom, who had a procedure that confirmed another complicated procedure is needed. Four other people with other serious health issues came to my attention.
I am tired.
Did I say that?
If I am honest, there are days I wonder if I am on the right path. One of my elders joked that we change the church’s name so that trouble and trauma would have a more challenging time finding us. I wonder what I had done, which caused all this mess and all this trauma. Am I the bad luck charm that causes all the trauma, all the stress, the crap that invades the world around us?
This path that St. Josemaria mentioned is one that is one that has particularly difficult stretches. It seems that we are going through such a time right now. Like the forests in a Tolkein novel, the forest seems impenetrable, the dark valleys where things that terrify surround us. ( I think those show up in his novels because he endured them as he journeyed with Jesus.)
It is those dark valleys that David walked through that caused Psalm 23 to be written. The CEV translation broke the sentences a little differently, which hit me this morning. For before and after the mention of those dark valleys, there is the assurance of the presence of God. Hie leading, His protection, His PRESENCE.
Amid the weariness, hearing this is so needed. St. Josemaria notes that danger is found when we imagine God is not there… that He is not in each instant. I know that, but I need to hear it as well.
He is here… HE IS HERE!
Realizing that I can find the rest I need, even if it is only for a moment in a praise song, in a word that reminds me of His love, His mercy, His presence.
When we realize that, our weariness changes form. It changes, no longer communicated by groans, to that with sighs of peace For we know the hope created by our destination; and we know Who it is to guide us on the journey.
Be still, find your rest in Jesus, with whom we have died at the cross so that we are raised in His glory and peace.
If you don’t understand this, please give me a call – or drop me a message. These days, this forest is too challenging to take on, on your own.
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 149). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. (taken from Friends of God by St Josemaria Escriva , p 313-314)
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘What have we said about you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It’s useless to serve God. What’s the use of doing what he says or of trying to show the LORD Almighty that we are sorry for what we have done? 15 As we see it, proud people are the ones who are happy. Evil people not only prosper, but they test God’s patience with their evil deeds and get away with it.’ ” 16 Then the people who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the LORD and respected him. 17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD Almighty. “On the day when I act, they will be my very own. I will be merciful to them as parents are merciful to the children who serve them. Malachi 3:13-17 (TEV)
“The apostle has no aim other than letting God work, making himself available.” (1)
“It is by God’s grace that our feet don’t lose contact with the path we are set out to follow. We say, “here I am, Lord” when He calls. He calls continually to the willing, and the unwilling. It is not so much our ability He has need of, but our availability. (2)
I started a number of blogs this week, questioning the validity of our feelings, when they question the results of our ministries and our very lives. When we wonder if the effort is worth it, when we wonder if we are just spinning our wheels. As I looked at the “hit count”, and the responses to these posts, the results were staggering – a lot of people read these posts. I am not sure whether I should be sad at this being so common, or relieved that I am not alone.
But as I’ve written each day, there is a faith issue involved, as well as one of discernment. It is really easy, as in the Malachi passage to look at this world and see people getting “blessed” for doing good, and those who struggle, not being blessed, at least from our view. Do we see those people who know God is with them and therefore make incredible sacrifices to serve being pointed out as great examples of faith, or those whose political machinations earning them praise?
Do we trust that God is here, listening, acting, being part of our lives as He has promised over and over and over to His people?
Oh how easy it is to question God, or the more “mature” version (since we know we can’t do that) our questioning our own results, the benefit of “our” ministry.
When we trust in God, yes, we rejoice in the the hard times. But we also rejoice in the times of rest, the times where we need to realize God is at work, and that the present trying times are not an indication of His faithfulness to us, nor of His love. We simply make ourselves available, keeping our eyes focused on Him, or remembeing His work in us in our baptism – and rejoicing. Of remembering His invitation to come and dine with Him, to do this knowing His work, His love, His presence. Of seeing His unmatched love for us.
As we do – our focus comes off of us, we stop evaluating things by our standards, our expectations, and realize that He is at work in us.
And that.. simply is glorious.
To reveal the work that happens, that God makes profitable within His will and His desire.
To realize the ways He wants to walk with us may seem different – but then again – He is with us…….
Cry out in those times, Lord Have Mercy, and wait and listen, and know He already has…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2454-2455). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) The Northumbrian Community, Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One p. 313