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Transforming the Sounds of Silence…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  So by virtue of the blood of Jesus, you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the holy of holies by way of the one who died and is yet alive, who has made for us a holy means of entry by himself passing through the curtain, that is, his own human nature. Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation – for he is utterly dependable – and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds. And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer. Hebrews 10:19 (Phillips NT)

Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there may be a great spirit of communion.  

Once you’ve heard a child cry out to heaven for help, and go unanswered, nothing’s ever the same again. Nothing. Even God changes.
But there is a healing hand at work that cannot be deflected from its purpose. I just can’t make sense of it, other than to cry. Those tears are part of what it is to be a monk.
Out there, in the world, it can be very cold. It seems to be about luck, good and bad,
and the distribution is absurd.
We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.

The song came up in a discussion yesterday, the cover of a classic that is even rawer, more real, more…powerfully and compelling than Simon and Garfunkel ever imagined.

I have listened to it over and over this morning, in awe of the pain, of the devastation and emptiness observed.  (one track is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4&start_radio=1&list=RDWJCGY0Hxz1M )  In awe of the helplessness expressed as the singer looks upon those he would help, and they won’t listen.

This morning, in my devotions, the resonance continued, as the quote in blue echoed the theme… the brokenness, the rawness, of prayers of a child unanswered, or prayers of a friend. The only answer is tear-soaked prayers of my own, and the insistence that we live between the moments of hope and despair, and faith and doubt, death and life.

Life is about more than good and bad luck and the distribution of them that is so absurd. Yet there are days it seems so, as evil seems blessed, as good seems oppressed, as sin and brokenness seem to reign over the land.  Even in the church, as people set aside their relationship with God to define and be in a religion that resonates with their opinions, beliefs, bias and political positions.

So how do we survive, and how do we help people caught up in the meaningless and vanity of this life?  Can we truly bring them peace, can they find it within what we reveal to them, with what we encourage each other?

The scripture passage from Hebrews says, “YES” and I do not believe it to be so!

I can’t believe it, I have been too overwhelmed by the times where there are no more tears, when the heart feels heavy and empty, and where eyes seem lifeless.  I can’t believe it, because I’ve seen the people in bondage to their pain, their grief, their shame.

I can’t believe it!

I know it though, my soul is in awe when it is has seen people come to life, be renewed, be healed of brokenness that has shattered them, and their family.  I have seen God do the impossible, I have seen the tears return at altars once abandoned, I have seen peace wash over those whose lives have known only suffering. I have seen joy break through empty eyes like the sun exploding through the darkness of night.

I know it.

I have seen this prayer come true,

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! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

That is the difference having a relationship, a deep, abiding, intimate relationship with Jesus makes in life. A life with Him that is shared with others, as we remind each other of this,

As we realize that in the sound of silence, in that place stillness, we can encounter and be lifted up by the fact that He is God, and He loves us.

That is the sound of silence, transformed by the Holy Spirit…

Lord, help all who read this resonate, not only with the honesty that brokenness leaves us with but with the hope that even in the silent darkness You come and are with us.  Help us to realize that You are our sanctuary, our fortress, our peace.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 251). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

William Brodrick from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/
IT

The Life of a Saint is Never Perfect, Which is Why They Are Holy

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought for our days:
7  But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. 8  We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; 9  we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; 10  always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. 11  Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. 12  In us, then, death is at work; in you, life. 13  But as we have the same spirit of faith as is described in scripture—I believed and therefore I spoke—we, too, believe and therefore we, too, speak, 14  realising that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise us up with Jesus in our turn, and bring us to himself—and you as well. 15  You see, everything is for your benefit, so that as grace spreads, so, to the glory of God, thanksgiving may also overflow among more and more people. 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 (NJB)

929         Don’t forget that we will be more convincing the more convinced we are.

As you look at paintings of saints, some are portrayed in very peaceful serene moments, a soft glow seems to be about them, even without the golden halos  There are others that show them in the depth of darkness, fully engulfed in pain, fully engulfed in a battle against Satan and sin and despair.  

I find great comfort in the latter type of paintings, for I know far more people engulfed in a similar battle, who benefit from knowing they aren’t the first to do battle with temptation, sin, doubt, resentment, guilt, and all the lies of Satan.  For when we look at Francis or St John of the Cross or Luther or Walther or Mother Theresa battling that which oppressed them, we realize there must be hope, for we know how the story of these holy men and women ring true in the moment.

Paul is correct, in these lives lived in the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t just see the brokenness, we see the Holy Spirit comforting and sustaining them, as the victory of Christ’s death on the cross becomes more and more real.

For united to that death, we find life. 

United to His suffering, we find peace.  

Yesterday I had the responsibility of sharing God’s love with a family, a neighborhood of people who were devasted by the death of a young man.  A man so devastated by the pains of life that it overwhelmed him and he thought peace could only be found in the arms of death.

The confidence to speak in that situation comes not from theology books, or the education I have received, but from the darkness, I’ve seen Christ deliver so many people through over the years, from the darkness I have needed to be rescued from as well.  St Josemaria is so insightful in his words, I can convince people of God’s love, because i have been convinced as well.

One of the 80+-year-old ladies is responsible for our church mission statement.  She said one morning in Sunday school that Concordia is the place where people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.

It is an absolutely beautiful, brilliant and true statement about our church.  It may not be fancy or measurable, it does not meet the standards of the guru’s who teach church leadership.  It doesn’t hold out a goal for some future time where we will have a perfect, thriving, idyllic large church.

Chruch isn’t some kind of utopia on earth.  It is a place for the broken, for the different, for those struggling with life, with shame and guilt, with resentment and hatred.  It is where we find healing and hope amid our brokenness, amid the tears and the pain to deep for tears.

This is what the saints knew… this is why the paintings can show them in despair, and in glory, for both are true, in Christ.

And we are called saints just as those whose faith in God we admire!  For we, like those who walked before us, are those called out, drawn to Jesus, those made holy the Holy Spirit, whose healing is being accomplished, for it is God the Father’s will.

He has heard our cry for mercy, and has answered it.  May we always be convinced of this, even as we convince others of it.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3775-3776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Recovering from, “Lord, I WILL NEVER….”

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God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!” 34 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.” 35 Peter answered, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!” ……75  and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: “Before the cock crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” He went out and wept bitterly…  Matt 26:33-35 & 75d  TEV

Confound yourself: But, alas! my Creator, instead of uniting myself to Thee by love and service, I have become rebellious by my inordinate affections, wandering and straying from Thee, to unite myself to sin: valuing thy goodness no more than if Thou hadst not been my Creator.
4. Prostrate yourself before God: O my soul, know that the Lord is thy God: it is He that has made thee, and not thou thyself. O God, I am the work of thy hand.

I saw a meme this morning that said the best celebrations of Christmas are preceded by powerful tears of advent.

I think the thought is correct, if only needing to be unpacked a little, to help us explain, to help us grieve, to help us weep, to help us heal.

As we hear Peter’s strong words at the Last Supper, I hear them with my voice.  I hear me telling the Lord how I will not fail Him, how I will gladly even face death if that is what it takes.  Yet I find it harder to face life, to hear those crows as I fail, over and over again.

I won’t commit that sin again, I won’t fail to love, I won’t fail… and I do.

You do as well.

We do as de Sales indicates, we fail to see ourselves united to God, we fail to love Him with all we are, and we unite ourselves to sin.  We wander about, trying to satisfy our passionate desire, trying to convince ourselves that we are actually good enough, strong enough, holier than the next person, which should be enough.

We need to hear that rooster, we need to remember Jesus words, we need to remember we are the created, not the Creator.

For then, we prodigals can rush home, for we realize there is no other hope, and that all we desire, is found in the Lord who proved His faithfulness to us; even as we see the proof in the nail holes in His hands, and the gaping wide wound that reveals His heart.

So realize you will cry, you will fail, you will sin, and He will absolve, and forgive, and heal.

(and you might find such love will sustain you through the next temptation…)

Cry out, through those tears, and with confidence in His fidelity, “Lord, have mercy in me, a sinner…”  Then let Him draw you into His glory, where you will find healing and peace…

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Theology that Truly Matters Meets Us….

Devotional THoguht fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

290      Joy, and supernatural and human optimism, can go hand in hand with physical tiredness, with sorrow, with tears (because we have a heart), and with difficulties in our interior life or our apostolic work. He who is perfectus Deus, perfectus Homo—perfect God and perfect Man—and who enjoyed every happiness in Heaven, chose to experience fatigue and tiredness, tears and suffering… so that we might understand that if we are to be supernatural we must also be very human.  (1)

Tomorrow in church we will use the Athanasian Creed, an incredible wonderful set of words that describe the nature of God who is so much more than we can understand or conceive.  It first describes Father Son and Holy Spirit (or for us older folk Holy Ghost).  Mindblowing in both its simplicity and complexity.  Very appropriate as we dedicate the day to thinking about the Trinity, this majestic and glorious God, who has revealed Himself to us.

The second aspect I want to deal with here, well sort of…

It describes, as best as one can, the divine and human nature of Christ.  That he is 100% man, 100% divine.  Theologians will talk about this ad nauseum, with fancy Latin phrases and epic tomes which make us sound far more brilliant than we are.  Where it matters is where the saint who wrote Hebrews mentions above.

Christ has sympathy for us.  Not just a sympathetic ear, but true sympathy for us.  Or perhaps more accurately, empathy.   He’s been here, done this, and instead of having a t-shirt to wear, He has stripes on His back, a gaping hole in His side, and in his wrists and feet.  As the scriptures tell us, he endured the temptations we face, (and then some extras!)  He experienced the fatigue and suffering, the tears and emotional exhaustion.  his sacrifice was on the cross, but it was also His very life.  A life that was an offering for us, and to us, to show us the depth of God’s love.

Which is why, broken and weary, tired and drained, even doubting and in despair, we can turn to Him.  Or more precisely drawn to Him.  We don’t have to avoid the pain, and the sorrow, the tears and the grief.  For there, in the midst of the brokenness, we find Jesus, who was broken for us. We find in our Humanity, the Lord and Savior, who loved us enough to become human, and there, at that moment, we find the joy of His making us holy, and supernatural, as we share in His glory.

So if you are preaching tomorrow, remember to link the Trinity to their beloved, remember to mention the Birde of Christ.  If you are hearing a sermon, worship with great joy, knowing that God is with you… that He has chosen to share your life, and at that moment, know the peace and joy that is beyond all understanding.  For Jesus the Christ is with you, guarding you heart and mind.  AMEN!




 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1181-1185). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

My Dad, Death and the reality of Semper Fi!

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United...

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United States Marine Corps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the day:

( Please note:  The feelings expressed herein are mine, not a reflection or way in which others should mourn)

19  When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?” “Yes, he is,” they answered. 20  David got up from the floor, took a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21  “We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!” 22  “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”   2 Samuel 12:19-23 (TEV) 

I probably will not be able to stop the tears tht will come today, and tomorrow and even as I write this, as I grieve at my father’s apssing this morning at 12:02.  I am not like David, save that I think that His words about worship resonate with me, and that is what we have in common.   But ministry will happen – people will find out of God’s love and peace.

But there is something very comforting in David’s words above – that in fact helps me to grieve in a way that I can only find as I encounter God and His Faithfulness.

There is nothing I can do to bring my dad back to life, and the more I think about it, these words mean something.  ” I will someday go to where he is….”

My dad was both proud of and yet very damaged by his military service.  THe PTSD he buried and dealt with for years – and my mom as well, was the result of serving in battle in Korea.  Of having the duty of tending to war-ravaged bodies.  He was a Navy Corpsman, attached to a Marine Division on the front lines.  He only shared with me a couple of hte nightmares – this from a man who shared most everything else in life that happened to him.  Yet, there was a sense of pride regarding the USMC and the men he served with – there were the funny stories ( and some of them were… well not necessarily “clean”. My favorites had to do with his wearing a USMC uniform with Navy rank insignia – which got him salutes from many who outranked him.   Yet there was always the motto Semper Fi.   Marines were the best, the most faithful of the services, the men sent it to do what the US Army just coulnd’t.  (“We’d take a hill, then get to stand downfor a week…. the Army taking our place… sort of… we’d come back and have to retake the damn hill again!)

Semper Fi – always faithful. always

This morning – my dad realizes in a way beyond stating the power of that phrase.  He knows how God was faithful to Him… through the War, through the deaths, through the struggles of adopting and raising 3 kids – each one different.  Of loving people immensely, yet being terrified to show them that love – the anxiety that subconsciously wracks so many veterans, and is so painful for spouses and kids to realize. Sixty years of marriage.  Hurts and pain and pride and health issues and all sorts of crap.  Yet know… he realizes God was faithful, God was there… God sustained Him and used His faith and his scars, as meager as he thought it was… to help people.  He now more than ever realizes the faithfulness of God…. Of that I am fully confident.

Maybe it’s because I’ve walked this horrid road with others, and I know my dad. Maybe its because I’ve seen what peace God gives – even amid tears and heartache.  I’ve seen the faces before Warren and CLyde and RIch and Dale and RIchard an – as we say “with angels and archangels and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN, even as I know I will see my dad’s face this Sunday… and King David’s words will echo in my mind….

“I will someday go to where he is” – with Him.  our Lord.

For God is always faithful – even as He brings us peace in the midst of tears….even as minsitry happens during lament – for there, I am absolutely convinced comes some of the deepest worship….

I pray that your confidence in God is strengthened – as we see God’s hand in the midst of our lives, the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our eternity… in a place without tears.

Thanks if you made it through this mashed up bunch of thoughts…

Anger or Sorrow…which will be drive your reaction?

 43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven   .Matthew 5:43-45 (NLT)

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest challenges as I try to walk in Christ, to walk as one cleansed of sin, is to live out the above.  I can usually deal with those who want to frustrate me, well most of the time, but when someone does something against my family, either my biological one or my family in Christ, or does something that stops the family of God from being out there, searching for and taking in those whom Christ died for, I want to go all “billy jack” or “chuck norris” on them.

The last thing I really want to do for them, is love them.   I want the right to be righteously indignant, I want to just take them on, and show them how their error – whether legalism that makes the church a fortress safe from invasion, or the extreme liberalism that basically turns the church over to the world and disregards God’s mercy, either way.. there are stumbling stones that… I must get rid of quickly.  Time to grap a sword, put on armor and start the next crusade!

At least that is my reaction in anger.  

Then the scripture comes alive… and I wonder, as a friend pointed out recently in a pastor’s gathering – should I be angry or grieving?  In anger, 

If I am angry I want retribution, I want to quickly eradicate the problem, even if the cost is great, or it simply inflames the situation.

If I can breath for a moment, I will realize that the anger hides my own pain, my own hurt, the brokenness caused, and the sorrow over what I hold dearest betrayed. If the people I blame  my struggle are indeed “enemies of the cross of Christ”, will my reaction be to admit the sorrow, the pain, the loss of a relationship, of the loss of possible relationships?  A

I can never love the enemies I am angry with… but I can love those whose actions cause sorrow.  Such was the actions of Christ, towards us. If we could love them, if our goal wasn’t wrath and our version of justice, could we instead aim for their being found righteous in Christ, and instead of frontier justice, we find reconciliation at the altar?  

This week’s sermon will go down this line further… but today, as people antagonize you, or others actions just infuriate you…before you react, think through the hurt and pain you feel – give it as well to God, then, even as you grieve…try to love them, knowing Christ’s love for the both of you.

Such is living in Christ…

In my devotions this morning – thinking through the sermon passage for this week, I came across this:

When you open the Holy Gospel, think that what is written there—the words and deeds of Christ—is something that you should not only know, but live. Everything, every point that is told there, has been gathered, detail by detail, for you to make it come alive in the individual circumstances of your life. God has called us believers ( original said “Catholics”) to follow him closely. In that holy Writing you will find the Life of Jesus, but you should also find your own life. You too, like the Apostle, will learn to ask, full of love, “Lord, what would you have me do?…” And in your soul you will hear the conclusive answer, “The Will of God!” Take up the Gospel every day, then, and read it and live it as a definite rule. This is what the saints have done.”

The will of God – to love Him completely, to love your neighbor..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2721-2729). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

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