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Mondays, the Wife of Job, and an Uncomfortable Faith…

cropped-will-new-camera-12-2008-167.jpgDevotional Thought of the Day:

9His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” In spite of everything he suffered, Job said nothing against God.  Job 2:9-10

75         Miles—soldier—so the Apostle calls a Christian. So it is that in this holy and Christian war of love and peace for the happiness of all souls, there are, in God’s ranks, tired, hungry soldiers, covered in wounds… but happy. For they bear in their hearts the sure light of victory.

It is foolish of us to regard the demands of faith—which makes unwanted demands on us and contradicts our own will—as “legalistic” and “institutional” and whatever similar terms may suggest themselves in order to shake ourselves free of it and so to sink into the leaden emptiness of a lusterless and selfish existence that receives nothing because it gives nothing. This thought should strike us anew: admittedly faith is uncomfortable, but only because it challenges us, compels us, to let ourselves be led where we do not wish to go. In this way, it enriches us and opens for us the door of true life.

There are Mondays, and there are Monday’s in which people around us act like Job’s dearly beloved, wife.  Actually out of the 142 days that have passed so far in 2017, too many have been Mondays, and it seems as many have had people like Job’s wife in the background.

Or maybe I’ve met Job’s wife as I look in the mirror, as I see the trauma of this world, the suffering of people, and I utter those words, directed to myself.  Maybe not curse God and die, but perhaps curse God and find a cave to hide in, give up, find something else.    

I know the tired hungry soldiers, covered in wounds who try to minister to the people of God.  Who struggle to work with people, trying to reveal to people the love of God who will cleanse and heal their hearts, their souls, their minds.  It doesn’t seem reasonable the pain endured by missionaries and pastors, teachers and other church leaders.  

I know the weariness of Job, slammed time after time with disaster and trauma, and I would pray for the faith to praise God when He provides times of discomfort and growth as well as the times where everything clicks right. For there are times we are led where we don’t want to go, there are times trusting in God makes us suppress our own desires and want, and sometimes, even our needs. We also suppress our own despair, recognizing it for what it is, and how Satan would use it to isolate us from the comfort and peace found in Jesus.  There are times we are called to be like Jesus and need to rely on His Holy Spirit to sustain us, even as He was sustained.

We can either curse God and run/die, or we can trust in God’s faithfulness in His promise of comfort and peace.

It’s hard, and often we waver, but He is faithful.  And when we stumble, we can let Him pick us up, cleanse us again, and lean on Him in this journey of life.

The victory is sure, the hope of glory is ours, and He is here, and will never abandon us.

Amen.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 535-538). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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.

Needing a Sanctuary… because we know He is there…

This was the church of my parochial school... a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..

This was the church of my parochial school… a beautiful sanctuary in Lawrence, Massachusetts..

 Devotional thought of the day….
In God is my safety and my glory, the rock of my strength. In God is my sanctuary! 8  trust in him, you people, at all times. Pour out your hearts to him, God is our sanctuary,. Psalm 62:7-8 

 18  “But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 19  Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. 20  May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 2 Chronicles 6:18-20 (NLT)

Think about this carefully: being transparent lies more in not hiding things rather than in wanting things to be seen. It is a matter of allowing the objects lying at the bottom of a glass to be perceived, and not trying to make the air visible.” (1)

I have never so wanted to go into to a church building as I did last Sunday, to just go in an pray, to feel at home, to find myself calmed as I sat in the back and took the time to have God revealed to me.   Until perhaps today…as I received a text from a very close friend, whose dad past away today, 34 days after mine.  

I want to run back to the church where I grew up serving, where I grew up finding a peace and comfort not known in any other place.  Too many people affected by death recently, even as I have come here to relive memories, and the past.  

I feel a but disjointed, for the place I would run to here….. the place is not here anymore… and I need that sanctuary to be able to weep, to be able to pour my heart out – just like I can back in Concordia’s sanctuary, or Shepherd of the Valley’s… or St Francis here in Lawrence – just a few miles from where I sit at the lake.  It’s not that other churches wouldn’t work, or that I can’t do it here, sitting at the lake, looking out at something more beautiful than anything a artist’s brust or a camera can capture..  But… there is something special about the places we call our home parish, our home church.  I hear it in the voices of the people who cry when a church closes, or consolidates, or for whatever reason.  It is probably why I’ve spent most of my ministry working in smaller churches – churches that might close if they aren’t given hope.

There is something about the sanctuaries that we call home. The place we know God’s put His name – because we’ve experieced it over and over.

I’ve heard from other ministers that writing such stuff isn’t “manly” – that it will turn guys off, that it will drive them away.  Don’t admit your weakness – and really don’t expect us too either!  Not that I want to do so in front of you, or in front of them, heck in front of anyone.  Guys don’t like that stuff. it’s not manly enough, it’s not for those who admire strength.  I think it is just the opposite – for it takes some strength to trust God enough to pour out your heart… if takes strength to risk that transparency, to be His Kid.  I think that is what St Josemaria’s talking about – about letting our pains and our sins be seen to God – not trying to hide them anymore. To say,  yeah, it’s time to pour out my heart – to let my God be my God, to let Him be my Comforter,  to know He is here…lakeside…for He dwells with us.  


The Lord is with us.. the Lord is with my three friends, who are dealing with the death of loved ones this week…

With me… as I place them in His hands… for mine are not up to the task today ( even if I was back in Cali – which tomorrow I will be.)  …catching my own tears…as I mourn my own Dad’s death, as I mourn the loss of places I knew in my youth… as I see my old church, my old sanctuary, where i served as an altar boy and played organ and pulled pranks…where I found God’s peace so many times… (tomorrow I will be back in Cali – and back to my norm – I know this as well – for I know God’s strength)

With you…. for He is your sanctuary…. so trust in Him… pour out your heart to Him….so give Him all your burdens..let Him be your God, let Him be your sanctuary!

And then you will find revealed again, His wondrous peace that passes all understanding, the peace in which we dwell, the peace in which Christ keeps us!

Please keep my three friends in your prayers tonight – an their families… thanks!
(and if you have a spare moment… pray that God would find away to reopen the church of my youth!)

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1555-1557). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Posting, Tweeting and the Real Source of Comfort.

“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. 27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:26-27 (TEV) 

“Don’t look for consolations apart from God. See what that priest wrote: There should be no unburdening of your heart to any other friend when there is no need to do so.”(1)

There is a cartoon of a priest, sitting in the confessional.  In the booth next to him, a youth is saying, “Father forgive me, for I have sinned.”  The priest, with a laptop open to Facebook nods his head and says, “Yes, I see you have!”  While meant to be funny, there is a great deal of truth there – most of us would never say in person what we type into our computers, tablets, and phones.  We would never purge our soul for all to see.  (I note – I have a dozen or so friends with multiple accounts, so that they can tweet or post things that those they are posting about can’t see their gripes and complaints.

The problem is of course, that such posting rarely leads to reconciliation, indeed it often prohibits it.  it may feel like such purging is beneficial, but what does it say of your faith?  What testimony does it give.  If everyone agrees with you and has your “cyber-six” does it increase your peace, or lead to more anxiety?  Will blasting your lack of trust in your boss, your parents, your president really help the situation?

Jesus has blessed us, by giving us the Helper, the Advocate, the Paraclete (the one called alongside to support and guide) rhw Holy Spirit.  It is my thought that when Luther indicated that the commandment about no misusing God’s name also inferred that we must us His Name correctly, Luther had such in mind.  Do we turn to God with our burdens,with that which causes us anxiety or pain?  Do we let Him deal with us first, do we see Him reconciling the situation and causing it to work our for good,  as He promised?

There are times where God will call someone alongside, someone through whom the Spirit will bring comfort, encouragement, I am not talking about that as much as our mass distribution of our gripes, complains, anxieties.  Will we bring them to God before bringing them to the world? WIll we take it to the Lord of All, who can change the situation, or change us within it?  (nor am I talking about asking people for prayer btw)

Or will we turn away… and let the entire world see how little we trust in God?

My friends- cry to God for mercy first – and watch how different things take on a different view…..

He always has answered, He always will…He will now….

So go ahead, He is listening..

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Blessing of Pain?

A favored quote from the Princess Bride:

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

There is a lot of pain in the world, even as there is a lot of beauty in the world.  There is no way to doubt that, and we can only deny it so long.  Occasionally, we get a glimpse of something that is both, tied in a paradox that can be enjoyed and suffered through.

But let’s be honest – most pain sucks!

Rarely, do we see the beauty in pain, the glory of God revealed in trauma.  It is very difficult, for the pain grabs our focus. It dominates us, it pushes us down, and yes it causes us to doubt.  To doubt those around us, to doubt ourselves, to doubt God.

Yeah – it’s time to stop playing games – because of the levels of pain, it causes us to doubt God.

Even pastors, perhaps especially pastors.

Even apostles – hear how God had Paul reveal that in his own life.

4:7 Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. 8 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; 9 there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. 11 Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. 12 This means that death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (TEV) 

 

While I know I exaggerate the pain I have to endure, these words of Paul so incredibly describe some days I have.  It can be my pain, but often it’s the pain that people I walk alongside develop.  The pain endured by people struggling with the loss of a spouse, or losing a parent.  The people who are dealing with job sresses, or dysfunctional family members and dysfunctional families. The pain due to lack of trust, the pain of betrayal, the pain of opposition as we try to bless those opposed to us.

As we are troubled, as we doubt, as we deal with enemies, as we are “badly hurt”, how can we say this can be what this same Paul promises (speaking for God) that “all things work for good, for those who love God?”

The ability to endure such times, is to know the difference comes from seeing, knowing the relationship we have with the God.  TO begin to grasp the life that is united with Christ’s cross, which happened to us in baptism (see Romans 6:1-8)
Knowing that we endure in Christ (scripture talks about us as being hidden in Christ as well) we begin to look to Him in the midst of trauma, in the midst of pain.  We find His presence, and we find it very dear – even when we can’t see the fulfillment of the prophecies, when we can’t find the joy in the journey.

But we begin to trust, even in the midst our doubt – ever more and more, His presence. We realize our pain can cause us to run to God, as we look to Him for some hope, some sense of peace… and that is when the miracle occurs…. Like the disciples in the boat, we realize the Lord is with us… and the storms don’t die down, the pain doesn’t always diminish.   But God’s presence becomes the dominant part of our life, not the pain… we begin to find ourselves ministering to others when they observe the pain..we find our spiritual senses more attuned, and eventually trying to praise God ….for in the midst of lament, we find some of the most honest, most dependent worship there is….

And that is when pain….becomes a blessing.

When we realize HE IS HERE… when we realize the Holy Spirit is called the “comforter”, the One who comes alongside, for a reason…

HE IS HERE!

And that is more than enough…. even though we can never explain how….

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