Lord, teach us to pray…but how do we handle the silent times?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 (NLT2)
For the person who loves Jesus, prayer—even prayer without consolation—is the sweetness that always puts an end to all sorrow: he goes to pray with the eagerness of a child going to the sugar bowl after taking a bitter dose of medicine.
The words from Luke’s gospel above lead to the Lord’s Prayer.
As I read them, I feel great gratitude to the unknown disciple, for he asked something we all needed him to ask.
Lord, how do we talk with the Father? How do we pray? What do we pray for? How does this all work?
And so He does.
Luther’s small catechism does a great job explaining how each of the petitions helps our trust in God, what we pray for and what it means to know God is answering that request in our lives, in our world, in our time.
These times become such a blessing, as we realize the promises of God, that as we open up to him, the relief and peace is amazing…
And even, as St Josemaria notes, times where God seems silent when we aren’t immediately comforted, become times where peace pervades, for we know He is at work. The more we pray, the more our eyes are opened up to God at work in our lives, the more we trust Him when we don’t hear or see the answer immediately.
But that takes time, time to see that confidence build, time getting used to seeing God in the unexpected, in the broken, in the moments where reconciliation is needed. Getting used to seeing Him working in ways unexpected, and in ways that leave you in awe.
As we get used to that, then we run to Him more frequently, we do so with greater expectation, like the child St. Josemaria describes.
It is hard to explain, this desire to run to God our Father, to just pour out our pain and anxiety, ot talk of the future, to hand over our sins and failures, things that He promises to deal with so that we can live in peace with Him.
That doesn’t mean prayer is a perfect art, or that we still don’t struggle. We do.. and yet that is a blessing as well… for then we learn again – He is there.
So pray, let it all out..and enter His peace.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Defeating the Idol of Time…
Devotional Thought of the Day:
While you are prisoners in foreign lands, your own land will enjoy years of rest and refreshment, as it should have done each seventh year when you lived there. 7 In the land of your enemies, you will tremble at the rustle of a leaf, as though it were a sword. And you will become so weak that you will stumble and fall over each other, even when no one is chasing you. Leviticus 26:34-37 CEV
684 So your talents, your personality, your qualities are being wasted. So you’re not allowed to take full advantage of them. Meditate well on these words of a spiritual writer: “The incense offered to God is not wasted. Our Lord is more honored by the immolation of your talents than by their vain use.”
We live in a culture that adores action, even as it hates inaction. Ambition is a virtue in today’s culture, and someone content with where they are at in life is odd and perhaps more than a bit eccentric.
Those who aren’t always moving, working their plan, aren’t considered lazy, or lacking motivation and drive. Everything in our society must be put to use profitably. We’ve made time an idol to serve, a god that demands all that we have, and more.
In the Old Testament, there were times of rest – Sabbaths. Weekly, monthly and even every 7 years, everything was supposed to rest, finding what it needed, not from work, but from the hand of God. In fact, part of the punishment for Israel’s sin in the captivity was due to not hearing God’s call to stop, to rest, and let the land find its rest. So during the captivity, God provided for the land what we did not. A time of rest, a time to recover, a time to let God provide.
I think this is St. Josemaria’s point in the quote from “The Way” I read this morning. I didn’t like it at first, for I understand the feeling that comes from inaction. I may have gotten past the idea of leaving food on my table as wasting it, but I can’t abide “wasting time” or even worse, not being able to use what God has gifted me with to help or disciple others.
Yet there are times to rest or to use Biblical/Agricultural terms, to lay fallow. To get past the guilty feeling, to simply leave it in God’s more than capable hands. Offer the stillness, the inactivity to Him. Indeed, to spend that time with Him. No agenda, no purpose, simply enjoying His presence.
A time where we don’t notice the passing of time. We just are there, in the moment, with Jesus.
The challenge is desiring this time, looking forward to it, not feeling guilty, but realizing it is time God would have us set aside, with Him. Yet that is the reward…time, with Him… communion with God, and the peace we need, in our lives.
Take the time, waste it in the world’s view, but take it and please God with offering it to Him.
Lord, help us realize the need to find rest in you, not just when we are exhausted and overwhelmed. Help us to not get to the point where like the Israelites, You have to take us captive, to get our lives and homes to rest, and the peace be restored.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Fall 7 times, get up 8? Yeah… uhhh…
When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice 2 saying, “Mortal man, stand up. I want to talk to you.” 2 While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet, and I heard the voice continue, 3 “Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. 4 They are stubborn and do not respect me, so I am sending you to tell them what I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them. 5 Whether those rebels listen to you or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 1:28-2:5 GNT
274 “Father,” said that big fellow, a good student at the Central* (I wonder what has become of him), “I was thinking of what you told me—that I’m a son of God!—and I found myself walking along the street, head up, chin out, and a feeling of pride inside …a son of God!” With sure conscience I advised him to foster that “pride.”
As I read the details of Ezekiel’s call, I resonate with the idea of falling on my face. THough usually for me it is not because of seeing the glory of God. Too often, it is because I’ve screwed up, or something in life has tripped me up, and I landed hard, as if I did a belly flop/face plant.
I hear the voice of my dad, “get up, brush yourself off, and take your stand!”
Except there are times that is impossible, what knocked me down seems improbable to deal with, if not impossible. All those proverbs about getting up one more time just seem, well, ignorant.
In the prophets case, God even prepares them for the rejection, for the fact that he will do a faceplant.
But in that position, there is some hope. There is the Holy Spirit that enters us and raises us to our feet.
You see there are days when the only way to get up, is to have God raise us up. There are days where we have to realize it is God that raised us up, and placed us where He knows we need to be.
To depend on Him for lifting us up? That’s a challenge! To depend on Him to keep us up is a whole different challenge.
It is in those moments, realize that we aren’t the first to fall down and think we can’t get up (or we are just tired and don’t want to get up) becomes helpful. What is even more helpful is what the student realized. That we are the beloved sons and daughters of God. That He is looking out for us, that He is caring and providing for us, that He doesn’t tire of picking us off, healing our bruised hearts and souls, and being our paraclete, the comforter called alongside to help us carrying our burdens.
As we realize that we also realise this, and pray it for each other
18 I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, 19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.
Ephesians 1:18-20 (TEV)
This is our God, and here we stand, we can do not other.
And with apologies to Martin, the reason we can stand is not because of our conviction that we are right, but simply because of the love, mercy and grace of God. Because He has made us His kids, because with all of His power supporting us, we can stand.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 728-731). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotions aren’t for the devoted…
Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† 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, 16 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. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity 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. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
How to Recognize that Your Life is Sacred and Holy
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 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 1:13-16 (TEV)
7 “Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am GOD, your God. 8 Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the GOD who makes you holy. Leviticus 20:7-8 (MSG)
The author of The Way shows that this invitation or calling does not in itself involve an invitation to leave one’s place, to choose another way of life; in fact, for the great majority of Christians it is an invitation to face the ordinary circumstances of one’s existence and find there a divine way which must be made holy. That is why Monsignor Escrivá rejects the temptation to “get out of place” (832), because this amounts to avoiding the will of God. Each Christian must find a holiness in keeping with his own mission and his own state in life; and so the ordinary Christian, who lives in the middle of the world, should sanctify himself and others by means of the world itself, sanctifying his professional work and his whole life.
If I asked 100 church going people, I wonder how they would answer the following question.
“Is your life sacred and holy”
I imagine some might answer with a theological statement, or some might answer from the perspective of pride and answer, “of course”. But I think most of us would look down, theink about the last few days and with a bit of regret and check the box that says, “no.”
I’ve written before that we don’t have a good handle on holiness, Most of us think it has to do with being good, with not just limiting sin, but to be some kind of spiritual superhero. (Have you watched superhero movies, those folk are far from perfect!) Someone who leaves wealth and riches to go serve in a third world country, or someone who prays for hours and “glows” like Moses did as he left the presence of God.
We hear the Apostle Peter’s words to be holy, because God is holy and we shake our heads, as we realize how impossible that command is.
We might even wonder if it would be more possible somewhere else, given a fresh start, given a new surrounding, one more conducive to holiness. (anyone want to start a new monastery?)
I love the words form the introduction to St. Josemaria’s classic devotional book, “The Way”. We find a “Divine Way” not on a mountain top, or in a cathedral, but right where God has placed us. Right in front of the people who have seen you sin, who have seen you be hypocritical, who know you at your worst.
That is where holiness is found. That is where we realize how sacred our life is, as it intersects with God. THat is where we find ourselves serving those who are broken, trying to help them know God, as we know God. Guiding them as they explore how wide, how broad, how deep and wide God’s lve is for them, as they experience that which they can’t understand, but they can know.
There in the midst of the brokennes, we find holiness. Not from our great effort, but just because we have to cling to God. We realize His power at work in us. We find that living a sacred, holy life is something that we are committed to, but that God makes happen, it is His craftsmanship, (Also see 2 Thes. 2:13) It is the transformation of our hearts and minds that God creates and sustains. Our biggest challenge? Not fighting against it, and allowing our old self-serving nature in to grab a foothold.
You are Holy, your life is sacred, from the moment God called you and the Spirit went to work, this has been the goal. It is the reason Jesus was incarnate and born of Mary, the reason for His life and teaching, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension. All of that works toward this one goal , of setting you apart for a relationship with God, Father, Son and Spirit.
This is it, something we have to trust and depend on God for, as we walk with Him. Life has a way of making us depend upon Him, and that dependence (what chruch fathers called Tentatio) is part of He makes us Holy, how our life becomes sacred. That dependence is called faith, the gift He gives us to depend on Him.
Another way to look at it, if the presence of God in a bush that is aflame makes the ground around it holy and sacred, what does the presence of the Holy Spirit do in our lives. What simply makes the difference is our awareness of God’s presence and work in our lives.
RIght here, right now, whereever we are stuck and struggling.
He is with you.. and therefore,
Your life is sacred and holy.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 97-102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
He ended with that? (The odd ending of a book of scripture)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 HCSB
The heart is like a home. There are houses that are open because they are at peace; they are welcoming because they have warmth. They are “not so tidy” as to make people afraid even to sit down neither so untidy as to become an embarrassment.
The same goes for the heart: the heart that has room for the Lord also has space for others.
The words in red above are the last words of the Epistle of James.
The is no final blessing, nor is there the usual list of greetings and please say hi to that conclude Paul’s letter to the churches.
Just this comment about facilitating the return of people to Jesus, to the Truth, and the incredible blessing it is to be involved in saving someone and removing the guilt and shame that is caused by our sin.
What an incredible blessing! To be involved in such a work! What an amazing God who would use broken people like us to help bring hope and healing to those who are broken. Realise, it is not the perfect people that are involved in Evangelism, it is those who God is healing form their own brokenness. It is those who know the amazing hope found as they experience God’s love, and see the healing that is happening.
I love Pope Francis’ words about the heart that has room for the Lord. It rings so true.
For years I remember hearing (and saying ) that every person has a Jesus size hole in their lives, Something only He can fill, an emptiness that only He can heal. Yet, as He does this, we begin to realize there is a ton more room in our hearts, a room that needs to be filled with others who help to us and are helped by us. As Pope Francis notes, the heart that has room for Christ finds it has space for others.
THe help, of course, is pointing to Jesus, to His work restoring our relationship with the Father, bringing God’s family together. Doing the work He promised to do…
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB
and which he tasked us to do as well…
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (NLT2)
This is our incredible work, this is the blessing we have, of seeing sin consumed by the cross, and freedom come to those who have walked without God, but are welcomed back to the journey.
James’ last words are ones we need to hear!
Heavenly Father, as we walk this day with You, help us see the people we can help you rescue, restoring them, and assuring them of Christ’s blood, poured out ot cover their sin, and claim them as righteousness. AMEN!!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 312). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Who is Responsible for this Work?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. Colossians 1:26-29 (NLT2)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
“Responsibility is something to be avoided. Evade it at all costs!”
It seems more and more this is the mission statement of the church. Not just in terms of man-made trauma, as people scatter, trying to avoid the blame game like kids playing tag. But in regards to the work of the church as well.
And we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline!
We all know the great commission, we know it is the responsibility of the church to disciple those who are saved. Yet we think its the pastor/priests responsibility. Or we think the pastors/priests should train those people up to do it, but no one will volunteer. Everyone avoiding responsibility, everyone pointing to someone else.
So the work goes undone, and we all shake our hands and wonder why…
How do we create in the church the attitude we see in Paul, who realizes this wonderful thought, Christ in you, which gives you the assurance of sharing in His glory eternally.
That people would know their share of this glory, that they would be free of the cruse of sin and enabled to do so, this was Paul’s struggle in life, one he threw himself into with all abandon, this was his reason for being here.
A reason that we, as the priesthood of all believers, have as well. To tell others about Christ, warning them and teaching them, that we may present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Jesus!
So it is time to wake up church, to realize this love that Christ has for us, that welcomes us, cleansed sinners, broken souls who are finding healing in Christ Jesus, and helping others who need to heal. We have to realize that this isn’t an obligation or a task… it is the glorious blessing God gives us, to see others made new!
Whether we help them teaching Sunday school, or praying for someone on the street corner, or offering them a cup of cold water, or simply inviting them to comse see Jesus love of them revealed.
And at the end of the day, may we each look back in awe at what Christ has done in our communities, through and with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Bottom Line
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 When I came to you, my friends, to preach God’s secret truth, I did not use big words and great learning. 2 For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (TEV)
729 Each day, O my God, I am less sure of myself and more sure of you!
Back in my youth, there was a phrase used that described the attitude of many students in college. It went like this, “If you cannot blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit!”
With intent or not, that may have gotten many of us a grade or two better than we deserve. Like most sophomore (from the greek where we get the words wise and fool/moron) we thought we knew everything about everything, and we tried to impress others with those beliefs and impose those beliefs on them.
I don’t think those attitudes have changed all that much, even as I encountered them as an instructor in both computer information systems and in world religions in the last two decades.
As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, and I considered all the fake news out there, I remembered the attitude and the bravado and crap that we typed onto papers and presented in class.
And I regret that past, for instead of shuffling data to look good and trying to impress professors and classmates, I could have been learning more about the love of God. The love revealed in the incarnation, in the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah, in His suffering and death which frees you and I from sin, from the resurrection, which brings us to live in Him. I could have been looking for to the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come.
For that is the bottom line in life. Nothing else truly matters.
We keep it simple, Christ came to save sinners. sinners like me. To save us from ourselves. To save us to himself. AMEN
Lord, help us each day to become less sure of ourselves, and surer of Your love and presence in our lives. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1711-1712). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Are We Superheroes, or Slimeballs?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created 7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)
592 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?
There is a balance to everything in life, especially in how we are to view ourselves. The problem is we fail to judge ourselves accurately. And sometimes we believe we are superheroes, and sometimes just the opposite.
Pride may cause our self=examination to fail n that we think we are better than we are, smarter, more beautiful, more successful, more in tune with life. So too may a poor self-esteem, as we consider ourselves the ugliest, the most wretched, the failures that deserve nothing more than eating dirt.
Asking others doesn’t help, they may boost our pride, they may tear us down even more. And when these statements are coming from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we keep them in balance?
Into this discussion comes the words of a simple, but a very effective priest. St Josemaria was fond of describing himself as a donkey, tied to one of those decides that lets him walk in a circle, faithfully plodding, though sometimes in need of some “encouragement” His words today, describing us as a garbage, re-purposed as a planter makes so much sense.
It establishes our value, who we are, not based on our natural talents, abilities, charisma, but rather on what the “divine gardener does with us”. Our value, our being is so integrated into God, that we take on both humility and yet a meaning deeper than anything we could have imagined.
This is God at work in you and I, God at work creating something in us not seen before, A value that finds fulfillment in the greatest work there is, the saving of souls. What an incredible joy it is to know that someone will be in heaven rather than hell because I took a moment to pray, a moment to offer comfort, a moment to help them know peace.
That somehow, God can use you and me to reveal His glorious love to others.
Even if how he uses us in the same way he used St. Paul
15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NLT2)
God is at work… He is with us… all glory and honor to Him, who makes us His children, and invites us to the feast!
Conversation: Which do you think you are, the superhero or the slimeball Do you struggle more with being humble, or with seeing yourself having value?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1413-1416). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.