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The Cure for “Boring” Spirituality/Christianity

Thoughts that give me confidence because Jesus is drawing us closer to Him!

I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave me what I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”
Job 1:21

Since all standard hymns have been edited to delete inferior stanzas and since any stanza of the average hymn can be sung in less than one minute … and since many of our best hymns have already been shortened as much as good taste will allow, we are forced to conclude that the habit of omitting the third stanza reveals religious boredom, pure and simple, and it would do our souls good if we would admit it.

As we begin to trust God more, we enjoy a certain freedom from our vices and may often experience great satisfaction in our spiritual endeavors. When God decides we are ready, he invites us to a new level of self-knowledge. God withdraws the initial consolations of conversion, and we are plunged in darkness, spiritual dryness, and confusion. We think that God has abandoned us.… Then comes a period of peace, enjoyment of a new inner freedom, the wonder of new insights. That takes time. Rarely is there a sudden movement to a new level of awareness that is permanent. What happens when we get to the bottom of the pile of our emotional debris? We are in divine union. There is no other obstacle.

The second and third readings are cause and effect.

When our worship becomes dry, when our spiritual lives exist in a state of boredom, we need God to take action.

But I will warn you, it isn’t pretty. It may not be as dramatic as Job encounters, but it will feel like it at times. (It does for me today) The classic devotional text The Dark Night of the Soul, also documents this, and how God allows Satan to strike us, for our good.

Like Job, the journey isn’t easy, like Job the challenges overwhelm us, and we find ourselves at the point of despair, and we will accuse God of abandoning us. That accusation may come with surprising force, because it comes from the darkest regions of our heart and soul.

God hears the accusation as a prayer. A cry for help that will be answered in a way that Keaton recognizes is full of peace. We abandon ourselves into the hands of a loving, merciful God, and are willing to see what He will do, for there is nothing else. Everything, including our hearts and minds are emptied out, and He is there… and that is what we need.

For we realize it is a blessed thing for God to take away what divides us from Him.  That is part of His healing ministry.

Oddly enough, this healing work, stripping us of all that isn’t of God–that is the content of many of those “third verses” that Tozer laments the loss of. Consider this one

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul
(from It is Well with My Soul!)

God is with us…Blessed Be His Name!

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 179.

 

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord! (even when it is near impossible!)

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! Numbers 13:11 NLT

27  On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28  But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.Mark 14:27-28 (NLT2)

Thus the saintly Job said after he had lost his children and all his property, “The Lord gave it, and the Lord has taken it away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Job, indeed, was a just man from whom no one could take anything because he had nothing that he called his own. God declares in Job 41 [:11], “Whatever is under the heaven is mine; I created it.” Why, then, do you boast about your possessions and wail about an injustice done you? If anyone touches your honor, your reputation, your possessions, or anything else that you have, he is encroaching not upon what is yours, but what is Christ’s! (Martin Luther)

Twice men believed they had lost it all, that they were capable of nothing.

The first time, they were going against giants. They forgot about the promises of God and HIs very presence at the tabernacle. They were not ready to take on the challenge, and they would choose to enter 40 years of trials rather
than recognize that God was there…

The second time is similar and even prophesied. The apostles would see Jesus taken – and even before the cross they ran away, they denied him; they could not stand beside Jesus, as they believed they should. They wanted to be there,
to stand with Him, even against the threat of death. They, too, failed, overwhelmed by their lack of strength and the conviction to hold to the One they trusted in…

So why do we think we shall be any better?

Actually, I think we can do better, but not by the strength of our conviction. Instead, we need to acknowledge not only our weakness but God’s wisdom.

Notice that I did not write God’s strength?

In our weakness, as Luther notes, everything is actually God’s. What He gives, what He takes away, He does out of His love and care for us. He makes a decision – in our favor! That we don’t understand that is challenging, very challenging.
Too many times in my life, I have second-guessed God, complained to Him (and to some others), and struggled with what has happened. Have a situation or two (or five!) like that going on right now! There is nothing I can do to change the situation except turn to God.

I wish I could say that is my first reaction, but like Israel and Peter, my faith in God, my trust in His wisdom waivers. Eventually, I will, as Israel would enter the Holy Land, as Peter would respond to Jesus’s love. At this point in my life, I know how things will end… that I will remember God is God, and He loves me. That doesn’t make the present battle more palatable – I just now have to depend on God’s love to endure… for I don’t walk alone. It may feel like I
do, but that feeling is one I have learned by experience is false. He is here… I’ve seen it too often in the past. 

He is here… He is far greater than what oppresses and opposes me. Romans 8:28 and 8:38 are still promised….

If you are struggling in the darkness, I pray for you –that you don’t beat yourself up for not being faithful enough to shatter the darkness by yourself. Look to Jesus, remember the cross – where you were united to Him…where He claimed you as the Father’s child. Breathe deeply of His peace, let His love wash over you. And know there is a morning coming… where you will be able to see God’s love clearly – and how He cared for you through the night.

He is with you… and also with me.

So whatever happens, let us learn to say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Why We (even Luther and a Catholic Saint) Need a “Safe Place”

my safe place… where bread and wine, Body and Blood of Jesus and His people Celebrate their intimate communion with Him!

Thoughts that help us to adore Jesus, and encourage our devotion to Him..

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:2-9 CSB

When we really come to admire and love the most sacred humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, which we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most holy wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely15 because “those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the gospel, which makes them say: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’”

Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says [Prov. 18:10]

I’ve heard people mock the youth for needing safe places, a

I’ve heard people make fun of brave people who state that they need a safe place.

Part of me wants to ensure those who make fun of others realize that they need a safe place as well. The easy way to do that is to firmly correct their errors! First, the error of their failure to love their neighbor. Second, their belief that they are beyond the need for a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place.

Luther needed such a place; he wrote sermons and more than one hymn about the ability to find safety in the Mighty Fortress that is God. The words he wrote were not as much a doctrinal manifesto as the cry of a heart that needed comfort, that needed peace. Look a the words of his cry in what was never meant to be the battle anthem it has become. Look at the description of the prayer. He knew God was his safe place…

St. Josemaria also found that refuge, that place to hide, as he meditated on the love which welcomed the wounds borne at the cross. This is where we find the greatest and truly only safe place, where even sin cannot do its damage. It is paid for; it is forgiven.

At this point, in such a sanctuary, the words of Peter become so much more than words!  Go up – and read them again!

There is an ability to deal with grief in various trials. It only comes in those intimate moments with God where we realize His ultimate plan. That amid the refining of our faith, as God removes all that is not of Him, that we find a joy that goes beyond anything we can explain. We may not even think of the eternity promised because we are now experiencing a foretaste of it as we rejoice in Christ!

This intimate grace, so full of compassion, so incredibly healing, as we find rest and peace, this is the glory of God, dwelling in us!

This is our safe place, amid the battles, the storms, the complications, the woundedness, and brokenness….

There are times I hate all of that… and yet… in an odd sense, I appreciate it all. For in it, when I don’t run, I realize I have a safe place….there… amid it all, in Jesus.

Lord, in the middle of life, when we are at our wit’s end… help us to remember that You are our safe place, our sanctuary, our Mighty Fortress.  AMEN!

Oh – and stop making fun of people who know they need safe places – and invite them into yours!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 201.

Why I… pray the Lord’s Prayer

God, who am I?

Thoughts for this day, that draws me closer to God….

7  When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. 9  “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11  Give us today our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13  And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7-13 (CSBBible)

At dinner on the day after Pentecost [ Martin Luther said], “One shouldn’t think of any other God than Christ; whoever doesn’t speak through the mouth of Christ is not God. God wants to be heard through the Propitiator, and so he’ll listen to nobody except through Christ.

We can always trust the moving and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our experiences. On the other hand, we cannot always trust our human leanings and our fleshly and carnal desires.

I have never gotten tired of talking about prayer, and with God’s grace I never will. I remember that, back in the thirties, as a young priest, people of all kinds used to come to me looking for ways of getting closer to our Lord. To all of them, university students and workers, healthy and sick, rich and poor, priests and laymen, I gave the same advice: “Pray.” If anyone replied, “I don’t even know how to begin,” I would advise him to put himself in God’s presence and tell him of his desires and anxiety, with that very same complaint: “Lord, I don’t know how to pray!” Often, humble admissions like that were the beginning of an intimate relationship with Christ, a lasting friendship with him. Many years have gone by, and I still don’t know of a better recipe. If you think you’re not quite ready to pray, go to Jesus as his disciples did and say to him, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”18 You will discover how the Holy Spirit “comes to the aid of our weakness; when we do not know what prayer to offer, to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself intercedes for us, with groans beyond all utterance,”19 which are impossible to describe, for no words are adequate to express their depth.

I find it odd, that when people talk about repetitive prayer, they often mention the verse just before Jesus teaches the disciples to pray… the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t babble on, or don’t be vain and repetitious as others translate the passage. And then comes the Lord’s prayer, which people say is vain and repetitious.

I will be the first to admit I have used it that way. Back in junior high school, we had races to see who could say it the fastest, or the entire rosary (I went to a Catholic parochial school.) And in doing so, we sinned, violating the
command about using God’s name in vain, for we didn’t think about Jesus when we prayed, we focused on speed and diction… not even the meaning of the words. There are days when I say it in church – that my thoughts are not focused on the words as much if we are saying it. (Which is why we more often sing it) It is easy to disengage. but that does not change it… just me.

As I have grown older, there have been more than a few times where I did not know how to pray. The words would not come through the anxiety, the words wouldn’t come through the tears, or even the times, where so overwhelmed, I
couldn’t cry. Finally, out of frustration, I would cry out, and pray the Lord’s prayer, letting the words of Jesus burrow through all the debris crushing my heart and soul.

And then, as St Josemaria put it, it was up to the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in those times, it is only the comfort of the Holy Spirit that brings that prayer to mind, who uses these words of Jesus to bring life where there is no life.
Tozer is dead on accurate with his point – it is the Spirit we need to trust, as we pray as Jesus said. For Satan loves to deny us hope, and peace, and the realization of God’s love.

And so by praying as Jesus taught, we again admit we don’t know how to pray, and in that humility the intimacy with God grows, we hear what He’s told us He will provide – from His kingdom, to His perfect Will occurring in our lives, to
what we need daily, food, the ability to know we are forgiven and the enabling of our forgiveness. What wonderful things! He goes on to provide us a way from temptation, and rescue us from evil….. WOW….

Because I didn’t know how to pray in the brokenness of the moment, I pray, and as the Trinity hears, my heart is reminded of what God provides.

And somehow, miraculously, I find peace in the storm.

That is why I pray the Lord’s prayer, it is where God leads, and the comfort it brings is extraordinary.

I pray you may as well!

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), 155.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Trusting God is Challenging…

Devotional thought for this day:

31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32  Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33  For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?

This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.

Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.

It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.

But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?

Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?

The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!

This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.

This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.

For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..

And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 301.

What Now? Hope…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 On the third dayq Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac.r In his hand he took the fire and the knife,s and the two of them walked on together.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provideG,t the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
Genesis 22:4-8 CSB

Love also implies hope. The Christian’s vision of our surroundings has to be optimistic. Not the naïve optimism of someone oblivious to the undeniable presence of evil, but that supernatural joy that is founded on a trusting abandonment to the plans of God’s loving Providence and on the free collaboration of people of good will with those plans.

To their mortal eyes He appeared as fire, and may we not safely conclude that those Scripture-taught believers knew at once what it meant? The God who had appeared to them as fire throughout all their long history was now dwelling in them as fire. He had moved from without to the interior of their lives. The Shekinah that had once blazed over the mercy seat now blazed on their foreheads as an external emblem of the fire that had invaded their natures.
This was Deity giving Himself to ransomed men. The flame was the seal of a new union. They were now men and women of the Fire.

I have seen a lot of despair in the last week. Politically among both those expeccted to win, and thosse expeccted to lose. I have seen it as well asthoseewh look at their churches and wonder how the churh will continue to be the church. They look for aswers, they dreamm dreamss, they read book about journeying into the unknown, looking for anything that wilgive them hope to continue their ministry, no matter how different it will look. Some of us, are in despair, because a good friend is ill, another is dealing with the loss of memory, and th ability to express their wisdom. More despair is being adresed by those who have someone dear to thm dying, and even harder, when onperson is being sucked into a ife of sn.

In the midst of this, I have hearpeople cry out, “now what?”

And I cry with them. I have to ask that question, for if I do not, I will not see the answer.

What now?

Hope!

(remember, it is a verb!) Hope, looking forward to the things God has promised.

So, what now? HOPE

You see that hope in Abraham, knowing he was going to sacrifice his son, and yet he says, that they will return together. You see it as he is tying up his son, and utters that God will provide.

No knowledge of how, but clinging to the idea that God cannot go back on his promise!

Hope is not naive! Hope is not to be confused with blind optimism. Hope is not blind to either evil, or the consequences of sin that is so visible in our broken world. It recognizes that, and something more….

It is abandoning our worries, our anxieities, our fears and pains simply because the Holy Spirit has invaded our lives. His presence, an unquenchable fire, causes us to endure…. even as it purifies us. This is where hope comes from, as the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of God’s love for us.

To realize the promises of God, such as this one, 5  Then I, myself, will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the LORD. And I will be the glory inside the city!’” Zechariah 2:5 (NLT2)

This is the role of the Spirit in our lives… it is the Spirit who gives us real life… who gives us hope.

So what now? Hope! for the Lord is with you!!

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 68). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Can We Lament? Will We Recognize its Cause?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Our glittering gold has grown dull; the stones of the Temple lie scattered in the streets. 2  Zion’s young people were as precious to us as gold, but now they are treated like common clay pots. 3  Even a mother wolf will nurse her cubs, but my people are like ostriches, cruel to their young. 4  They let their babies die of hunger and thirst; children are begging for food that no one will give them. 5  People who once ate the finest foods die starving in the streets; those raised in luxury are pawing through garbage for food. 6  My people have been punished even more than the inhabitants of Sodom, which met a sudden downfall at the hands of God.
Lamentations 4:1-6 (TEV)

Our inner life should not be less important to us than outward performance, than sports, or technical ability. The “growth of the interior person” is deserving of our whole commitment: the world needs those who have become interiorly mature and rich.

There are a lot of people “remembering” today. A lot of people saying “never forget”.

But what have they remembered? The heroes, of whom we have so little information and background? Are they remembering the pain, the shock, the hurt, and dare I say the hatred towards those that look like, or sound like those who hijacked planes?

Or are they fondly looking back at 9/12 and the “revival” of patriotism that swept America?

As I came across these two readings this morning, I wondered the unthinkable. How many of those people in the twin towers walked with God that day? How many of them didn’t?

As I read Jeremiah’s lament, I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to lament of the present, and only remember the past? Do we see the trauma today, as we look out on the homeless, those who are abused, those who are traumatized by their health, their finances, the relationships that are shadows, dark shadows of what they should be, that they are in? Do we see those who might let their babies die. Do we see those who are suffering the punishment due for their sin… or sadly… ours?

We need to lament of the present! We need to be able to see the brokenness that surrounds us, and be there, bringing the comfort that only God can give them, but gives to them through His people.

Many of those situations don’t have easy fixes. But lament, in the presence of God, reminds us that He is with us, that has a plan, His presence brings a peace that is beyond understanding, which is why a Christian makes a difference when they bear Jesus into that room, into that situation. Into that moment of despair.

But to do that, we have to be connected to God ourselves. We have to have the awareness of His presence that comes from wrestling with our own lament, and being comforted by Him. It comes from spending time communing with God, and finding the rich strength that comes to us as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of the Lord. As we cry out with our heart, and know His response. As we find rest at the end of our tears, knowing He is our fortress and sanctuary, that He is our “safe place”

God is with us, and will be.

Not just as we remember on 9/11, but as we struggle every day amid trauma and strife, amid anxiety and pain, for He has sent us into these places, to reflect His light in darkness.

Lord, help us see that in our lives which we need to lament. Help us be there for those who do not know they can, help us hold the hands, dry the tears, weeop and laugh. Lord, help us to realize your presence, and do those things, not for their own sake, or even ours, but to walk with you. In Jesus name, AMEN!

Joseph Ratzinger, 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), 292.

Do You Wish For Something to Small?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11† my persecutions, and my sufferings. You know all that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the terrible persecutions I endured! But the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 13 and evil persons and impostors will keep on going from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. 2 TImothy 3:10-14 GNT

228    “Have a good time,” they said as usual. And the comment of a soul very close to God was, “What a limited wish!”

Looking at the words of St. Josemaria this morning, I was a little… I don’t know the words. I had to sit and think about it for a moment.

What’s wrong with wishing that someone have a good time, that they enjoy whatever it is they do? Isn’t that what we would hope they would want for us?

How can it be considered “limited?”

It takes a moment or too to think it through, to consider some of those times that are not “good” in the sense of enjoyable, in the sense of time where everything brings a smile to your face, a time that is “fun”

But some of the most blessed times are not enjoyable, that are not easy, that start in the midst of strife, or at the side of someone dealing with trauma or tragedy. Times where division and discord are dominant, time where I would prefer not to go. Times where the brokenness that is being experienced is crushing, and I walk away feeling drained and exhausted.

Times that end I end up looking back on in awe of what God accomplishes. In spite of the exhaustion, in spite of the pain, in spit of the suffering, these times are the times I have come to learn to treasure.

Because it is in those times, I see the grace of God revealed, and the healing that only God can create brings peace where there is no peace. I have learned to seek and expect miraculous things in those times. That helps, stay focused on God in the midst of the struggle, and to remain hopeful and pray for the grace to be confident in God’s faithfulness.

The Apostle Paul indicates that tough times happen to those who follow Christ. It’s going to happen, you can’t address brokenness without being affected by it. Paul puts it clearly, those who deceive are deceived themselves. Ministering to such people often is like wrestling an alligator! But the battle is not against the one deceived, but the spiritual powers that have them in bondage.

At the end of the day, which would you rather have done? Enjoyed a pleasurable time, or rejoiced in God’s work? Which will you remember 20 years from now?

Desire something more… even though it seems to have a cost… remembering God is with you!

Lord Jesus, help us desire to see You at work, more than we desire our own comfort. Help us to enter those situations were things are broken, looking for the miracles You are doing. In Jesus name… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 629-631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dad, Why Does God Allow Earthquakes?

Twenty five years ago, yet as real as yesterday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

18  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21  the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23 (NLT2)

4  What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them? Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5  No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.” Luke 13:4-5 (TEV)

If we have an openness and are willing to learn, we can come to recognize the voice of God with assistance from those who are familiar with the divine voice from their own experience. On the other hand, we should understand that it is in Satan’s best interest to make an inherent mystery of God’s word coming directly to us. In this way the power of God’s specific word for our lives can be hindered or lost. Without qualified help working alongside our desire to learn and readiness to cooperate, God’s direct word may remain a riddle or a game of theological charades.
This is generally the condition of the church today, I suspect. This would explain why there is such great confusion and difficulty about what it really means to walk with God
.

As a father, yesterday I wonder if I failed yesterday.

We had a nice rolling earthquake as we were watching a movie. 100 or so miles away, it must have really rocked and rolled. But for us, it was a long drawn out thing, enough to cause us to wonder what was coming next.

The day beforehand, I panicked with a similar long distance quake. I flashed back to January 17, 1994, and our apartment in Canoga Parker/Warner Center. Not far from the epicenter of the Northridge Earthquakes. THat too was a longer quake, but we were closer, and the damage to our apartment and community was intense.

Here is where my failure occurs, as we tried to calm down after yesterday’s rolling quake. As we talked, as I mentioned my almost moving to Arkansas after Northridge ( I would have moved anywhere after that – even Texas!) I think my fear and anxiety affected my son.

And the 12 year old child I struggle to see as a child, (he is 5’11.5″, 170 lbs and has a IQ like Einstein) got anxious. Enough so at bed time he could relax, came into my bedroom and we talked. Plate tectonics, distance from epicenter, fault effects, etc. And then the question…

“Why does God allow earthquakes?”

I stumbled to remember where the Tower of Siloam passage was above, and tried to show the law and the gospel in it. We need to keep our relationship with God a priority, the priority, because we don’t know what comes next. And while God doesn’t cause the earth to groan. Thanks to Apostle Paul for that reminder – that creation is subject to God’s curse, and it groans under the pressure of the sin it is subjected to! Such “groaning” God will use to remind us of the shortness of life, and that He is indeed with us.

He is there, in the darkness, in the anxious times, in the times were we shake or the ground does. in the moments where we don’t get that He is, and He is with us. In the moments where our kids pick up on fear and anxiety, and we fail to be the strong, wise, shameless heroes we want to be for our kids, God is with us there.

Willard is correct, theology can often become a charade, an act we ut in place when we can’t find the answer. When we are as shaken as the land our in Searles Valley. (an odd connection to my home back east there) Theology, and Biblical guidance must point us to the presence of God, that we walk with Him, that we depend on Him when our anxieties mount, when we ourselves fail. Whether it is when we don’t see what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to in scripture, or how to react to trauma, or frustration.

He is there, bringing comfort and peace, love and mercy and forgiveness…

Walking with us. Even standing in the doorway, or seeking protection under a table, or sitting on a bed trying to explain what doesn’t make sense, He is there! And depending on Him is the answer we need to come to, and know this. God will bring us to that answer, that He is the answer.

Lord Jesus, remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, in our lives. When we are full of anxiety, fear, or just don’t have the answers, Lord bring us peace, and help us to be a peaceful presence in others lives. AMEN!



Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

How to Survive this week…

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for the day:

7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11  Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13  But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14  We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NLT2)

We have to be candles, burning between hope and despair, faith and doubt, life and death, all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us.

And if our life means anything, if what we are goes beyond the monastery walls and does some good, it is that somehow, by being here, at peace, we help the world cope with what it cannot understand.
William Brodrick

The Eucharist will restore to us our original dignity: to that of rational beings: not rationalists but rational ones, perfected by the grace of faith, hope and charity. This is a healing from a deviant emotionalism that is wrought by an authentic theological life, which puts the emotions and feelings in their rightful place. Otherwise, one is faced with two temptations: either lose oneself in emotion, or reject it categorically, which in both cases is a tragedy for the humanity of the person. Only an authentically theological life restores to human affectivity its legitimate and rightful place, including in our devotional lives.

As I sit in my home office, I am looking back on a week that I could never have imagined happening to me as a pastor. I am not talking about never imagining it when I was 8 and felt the “call” to be the pastor. Or when I was 18-22 and studying to be one.

I am talking about never imagining it as far back in time as last Wednesday.

And I have seen a thing or two as a pastor, and helped people pick up the pieces of hundreds if not a thousand or more traumatic experiences.

And so when I cam across the words of Mr. Broderick above, they resonnated incredibly well. there is where I stand, in the midst of the extremes of life (and along with me the staff of my church and school.) It is not the queit place it normally has been, and while the sense of peace is being revealed again, there are the challenges we have endured that have marked us.

But we are that candle, and by being here, in this moment, we help those around us cope with what they cannot understand, what we cannot understand. What was beyond our imagination, and yet became a reality.

So in the midst of that, we learn to focus on what is dependable, what brings about peace, what cannot be seen or perceived completely, yet has been promised to us.

We look to the Eucharist, the Body broken, the Blood poured out to restore us, to renew us, to help us believe and depend on God, even in the times we struggle to believe, because our minds cannot understand. This is what renews us, what calms our fears, that strengthens our dependence on Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

And then in the midst of a peace that is beyond our understanding, we find our hearts and souls healing, and we realize the healing that we have been able to help others find.

Lord, bless us as we pray! You promised the Holy Spirit would interpret those prayers, even with groaning deeper than our own. Help us to look to You, to see Your love revealed, to strengthen our faith, our trust in Your love. Lord we need to know You are here, so make it evident that You, Lord, are with us! AMEN!

Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 121). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ 5/31/2019

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