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Are You Tired? Wondering if you are on the right road?

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)

“Lord, I can’t do this anymore” and other prayers the prevent burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15  May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16  Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17  because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18  Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)

It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.

14         “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.

I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)

He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.

It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.

You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.

Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.

This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.

Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.

That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.

That is the miracle and the paradox….

That is walking with Jesus.

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), 30–31.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I want to Quit Social Media, and Cannot.

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought for the Day:

1 Timothy, my child, Christ Jesus is kind, and you must let him make you strong. 2 You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others.
As a good soldier of Christ Jesus you must endure your share of suffering. 4 Soldiers on duty don’t work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer
. 2 Tim 2:3-4 CEV

Keep your mind on Jesus Christ! He was from the family of David and was raised from death, just as my good news says. 9 And because of this message, I am locked up in jail and treated like a criminal. But God’s good news isn’t locked in jail, 10 and so I am willing to put up with anything. Then God’s special people will be saved. They will be given eternal glory because they belong to Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:8-10 CEV

That hand which multiplied the loaves, which saved sinking Peter, which upholds afflicted saints, which crowns believers, that same hand will touch every seeking sinner, and in a moment make him clean. The love of Jesus is the source of salvation. He loves, he looks, he touches us, WE LIVE.

As I look on Facebook and Twitter this morning, I see nothing but wars. People bad mouthing each other and the candidates they support. People cashing people because of their stand on masks and viruses. People talking about how children should be educated, or that it is just a short time, their lives will adjust. People talking about conspiracies, on the right and on the left, demanding that others recognize who they believe the anti-christ is, actually is. People who claim their beliefs are being violated, that their rights are being taken away.

There are times I want to speak up… and there are times I do.

But what I want most to do, is to quit social media, to give up, to stop feeling like both sides doesn’t care about my views, they just want me to bow to theirs.

(By the way, the same thing happens within church politics as happens secular life)

When I am at that point, I need to look back at Paul’s words to Timothy. That there is going to be suffering in this life, and the church will endure a lot of it. (We actually do not, here in America compared to other places, btw!) But notice in each paragraph the same answer is given. Let Christ make you strong, let your mind stay focused on Him and His work, redeeming the world. Keep looking to to the one who created you, drew you into this new life, who is redeeming you and everything you’ve done.

It is then that we can go out into the broken world, filled, protected and guided by the Holy Spirit and tell people about the Love of God, a love so strong, so powerful that it can save me… and you. A love so strong that it can not just stand the sight and stench of us when we are broken, but also painstakingly cleanse us, heals us, and makes us His people.

Looking to Jesus we can engage social media, and deal with its brutality, with the hope that some might be saved, because we were here. And we are, the Lord is with us.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

We are tired…and yet…

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (NLT2)

994    “My enthusiasm is gone,” you wrote me. Yours has to be a work not of enthusiasm, but of love, conscious of duty— which means self-denial.

There are times we are physically exhausted.

There are times where we are emotionally exhausted, or spiritually exhausted.

There are some days when these all roll in together, and staying away, or even getting out of bed seems like to great a burden.

In this pandemic, there are too many of these days. When we feel like the person St. Josemaria is advising, where enthusiasm is gone, where we feel drained, where life is without energy.

It is that moment that what we have left is love.

Not just our ability to love.

God’s love, sustaining us.

Enabling us to love others, enabling us to love ourselves…

God has promised us to be here… with us, given g a reason to get beyond the lethargy, to get beyond the discouragement, to get beyond the weariness.

Listen to these promises… rely on them… and know He loves you. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Finding Strength for Tired Believers

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
16  We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. 17  These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. 18  Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen.   2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV)

Anxious to serve his Master, he finds his strength unequal to his zeal: his constant cry is, “Help me to serve thee, O my God.” If he be thoroughly active, he will have much labour; not too much for his will, but more than enough for his power, so that he will cry out, “I am not wearied of the labour, but I am wearied in it.”

There are days when every pastor, every worship leader, every elder and layperson that serves and attends church are tired.  Sometimes we let that tiredness turn to exhaustion and without a sabbath, we will burn out, and crash and burn.

Our friends and family may witness it… they may be victims of it!

We want to do good, we have a burning need to serve the people of God, to make a difference in their life, by revealing the love of God. Work, that if we are tired, may seem futile, like we aren’t impacting people’s lives, that they are not growing in their dependence on Jesus.  When they walk away or need the same lesson for thirty-fifth time, or look to other sources,

The dissonance that Spurgeon mentions is an incredible reality.

The way he describes the cry of despair deeply resonates with me.

I am not weary of the work, I love it, I need it.  But doing it can devour our energy, our strength, our hope… and sometimes, we get confused by our exhaustion, and its cause.

To those of us in this situation, carefully reading Paul’s words to a tired church helps.

The strength he describes despite our tiredness.  In fact, it may require our being tired, lacking the energy of our own, and dependent on God to simply keep going. Paul directs us not to put one more step in front of the other, but rather to look to Jesus.  To look to the point He guarantees the rest that comes from when we enter the presence of the Father.

With eyes fixed on Christ, the burdens don’t disappear, the discomfort and weariness still are there, and yet, somehow, their impact on us lessens. and the blessings of seeing God at work is magnified. For those things we see Him doing become the blessing we so need.

It is then we find that kneeling at the altar, in prayer, and in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus becomes so amazing, and those moments, the greatest moments of peace, of rest, or restoration.

So contrary to the normal thought, the idea of rest found away from the ministry.  Rather, rest is found in the ministry.  Not in the meetings, or the casting of vision.  Not in the administration of programs and in training, comforting and disciplining people.

But in the gathering of God’s people into His presence, to be assured of His love, and His presence. He heals and nurtures us, as He declares we are His, and then proceeds to prove that we are righteous, as the Holy Spirit cleanses and transforms us into the very image of Jesus. Showing us the love we cannot explain, can only experience as we plunge its immeasurable dimensions.

That’s where we find the tiredness of being on this mission field evaporate, leaving us with the mission we will never tire of.

Find rest my friends, at the altar, in the prayers, and in the Body and Blood broken and shed for you and I.  AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Coping with Ministry Burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. 8  Whenever I speak, I have to cry out and shout, “Violence! Destruction!” LORD, I am ridiculed and scorned all the time because I proclaim your message. 9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. 10 . 18  Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace? Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 (TEV)

13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God’s message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God’s message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe 1 Thes. 2:13 GNT

261    I forbid you to think any more about it. Instead, bless God, who has given life back to your soul.

Two things showed up on my computer this morning.

The first was a copy of the picture above, reminding me that eleven years ago, I was installed as the Senior Pastor here at Concordia. The other, in my devotional reading, was Jeremiah’s words above. Ironically, these were the words I had to preach on the first Sunday after I received the call to Concordia.

It has to make you wonder, when one of the strongest prophets of God whines like that! What had he gone through, what had broken him so badly that he had to accuse God of deceiving him, and forcing him to do something that was,,, more than challenging.

This is month is also my twenty-first anniversary of being a full-time pastor and it is closing on 27 years since I started as a chaplain preaching and counseling in the detention centers of Los Angeles County. In that time, I have felt like Jeremiah more than a few times. Some call it clergy burnout, and if the numbers are still true, over 1000 pastors and priest leave the ministry every month, many because they can’t handle the feeling Jeremiah describes.

So many different things can cause it, to many traumas, such as deaths, or serious illness in the people you are entrusted to care for, and walk beside. Sometimes it is conflict, or maybe a power struggle, or just helping a church go through some significant change. (The number of guys who leave a church after a successful building program is staggering!) SOmetimes it simply builds up over the years, and all of a sudden, you find yourself weary and unwilling to go on.

You just want to shut up, move to someplace no one would expect, and leave the pain and struggle to someone else. Some guys don’t remember Jeremiah, and feel guilty about getting upset at God. Others just bottle it up, and find solace in video games, alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, or they just turn their vocation and calling into a “job” and punch the clock until they can retire.

Some of us are blessed, and have parishioners, friends and mentors that look out for us. (Hint, if you have a pastor, look out for him! Pray for him often!) Others feel like they are almost invisible, when it comes to their needs. Even so, the wear and tear has an impact.

The point Jeremiah ends up discovering and struggling with is the power of the message we are given to share. The message that must get out, even if it has to burn through us.

The message of God’s love, and His desire for us to let Him heal our broken hearts and tortured souls. The message that He will take us back, that He will rescue our people. When all else we are doing fails, when the brokenness is overwhelming, when despair seems to drive out life, He is there. In that moment we need to hear and treasure these words the most….

“and also with you…”

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 692-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Don’t Say it!!! (but what do we say then?)

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NRSV)

How does God console?
Certainly not with pious platitudes like, “after all the tribulation it’s not as bad as it seems.” On the contrary, he allows us to see the suffering that has befallen us in all its horrors, but silently and calmly he shows us heaven.

I’ve seen it too many times, and even more, have I heard it.

SOmeone walks up to someone who is suffering and gives them some words that are supposed to be comforting, but are not. They think they are giving them Biblical advice, but they aren’t.

Sayings like, “God wouldn’t give you anything you can’t handle.”

What these words, these platitudes do is demean and minimalize the pain the person is trying to endure. They come across as uncaring as if the grief and pain you are dealing with are not that overwhelming, as if you can brush it off, pick yourself up, and act as if nothing happened.

But something did, and the pain is…enhanced by the “well-wishers” and people that think they are really helping.

But they don’t know what to say…and so they open their mouths, and stuff comes out…

All of us have done it, and most of us have the scars from hearing it.

So what should we say, when we don’t know what to say?

The first lesson is that you don’t have ot say anything. Be there, cry with them (see Romans 12:15) Your presence, empathy and compassion will be heard louder than even the nest words of comfort.

If you have to say things, reminders of God’s presence matter most, something like Psalm 139, or Psalm 23. Give them permission to cry out and grieve (check out Jeremiah 20 for instance)

Pray with them, that God would help them find a revitalizing rest and peace, for that He has promised.

To say it in another way, be there, but let the Holy Spirit comfort them

Be there… be quiet, help them know God is there…

Help them realize, carefully, that we are in the presence of God, and that is our ultimate hope and peace.

That is our role, and it is what we need to…

Lord, bless us as we encounter pain and suffering, help us to be wise and compassionate, investing time in being there for others.  Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to bring the healing, as we step out of the way. Thatnk You Father, for ensuring that we aren’t alone as we minister as your hands. In Jesus name. we pray, AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 40). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Mondays Feel So….Empty….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”  John 6:68-69  HCSB

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. 5  In times of trouble he will shelter me; he will keep me safe in his Temple and make me secure on a high rock. 6  So I will triumph over my enemies around me. With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple; I will sing, I will praise the LORD. 7  Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me! 8  When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.” Psalm 27:4-8 (TEV)

The pure in heart shall see God.  The seeing of Him will be the sign that we are like Him, for only by being like Him can we see Him as He is.  But when shall we be fit to look at Him in the face, God only knows.  That is the heart of my hopes by day and by night.  To behold the face of Jesus seems to me to be the one this to be desired.

Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. Conversely, whenever the world closes itself to God, whenever it turns away from him, it is like a planet broken loose from its field of gravity and forever wandering aimlessly through nothingness. When a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence. When we cut ourselves loose from our proper norm, there remains only excess or reversion. Some theologians suggest, as a precaution, that theology be so worded that it will still be functional “etsi deus non daretur”: even if there really is no God. But if God does not exist, we will have lost more than just an ornamental bauble on the periphery of our existence. If God does not exist, nothing will be as it is now; everything will proceed from emptiness and will revert to emptiness.

Part of my daily time I spend in prayer, talking to God, trying to listen, meditating on his word includes the two Bible readings above. There is a pattern, an order for morning prayer I use that includes them both.

And every Monday these words hit me in the face, and I feel like a hypocrite. I know God’s words are the words of life, I know how wonderful it is to be in His presence, I know how special it is to be in God’s presence.

Yet Mondays seem so empty of all of that, so distant.  Even in this holy week, it’s MONDAY!

So there is a part of me that feels convicted, even judged and condemned as a hypocrite when I say these words.  It’s not that I don’t want to feel this way, I want to, but it seems like I can’t. I feel like the theologians who imagine theology to be able to functionally exist if God doesn’t exist.

Monday’s seem empty, which is ironic because the day before was so full of His presence I would think my joy would never fade or fail.

So as I start my time dedicated to being in His presence, it starts out as a struggle, (it doesn’t help that the first reading was also in my readings today,)  Or the McDonald reading, or that from Pope Benedict.  Each reminded me that this is how I should be.  Each reminds me that my reality is not what I want it to be.

Each reminds me of how hungry I am for life to change.

I guess over the years, I’ve realized that these feelings could so easily betray me, these feelings that I am the worst hypocrite, these feelings that I am just going through the motions.  The dissatisfaction with my own faith and practice could cause even more of a spiral into guilt-ridden apathy until my cold heart no longer cares.  It’s easy enough to stagger down that road.  Will I ever be fit to see Him face to face?  That is my question on Mondays, when my heart lies, and tells me, no.

I need to read these words of scripture and ask God for help to make them mine.  I need to find that desire, and the only way to do it is to depend on Him to renew me, something that happens when I enter His presence as I am broken, tired, empty. For then I do see God as McDonald desires.  I do become who I am, as Pope Benedict points out.  Because God is the one who renews, who revives. It is His love that draws me into His presence, that makes me aware of it

It seems counter-intuitive to need God to provide the desire, the strength to desire to be in His presence. But it is the reality I’ve come to learn to live with.  I have to dive into my pattern, for there, Mondays lose their emptiness, the meaningless.. or perhaps, they have no meaning, because meaning is all wrapped up in being in God’s presence, and the day doesn’t matter.

He is the Lord of Life.  I need to know that on Mondays… and He makes sure I do…

So let’s pray together, that on Monday’s we would encounter our Lord, and know we can confidently cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’

He will, that is what He does.

 

Daily office Meditation for 3/26 (quoted from George McDonald) Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2 

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.

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